If the weather seems a little more windy around Durham and Middlefield lately, it might be an increase in air pressures, or it might be the collective, exultant exhale by those directly responsible for the nearly completed athletic complex at Coginchaug Regional High School. For Bill Currlin, it's something to be proud of.
"The Building Committee worked really hard on this. I just think if the community sees [the athletic complex], they would be proud," Currlin said.
Once a daunting proposition, then a legal affair, and finally a premier athletic facility, Coginchaug now has a true home football field for the first time in the program's existence. The project also brought a much needed excavation of the old track, circa 1970s, followed by a resurfacing and expansion into eight lanes. The tennis courts, once riddled by fissures, were also excavated and resurfaced, but lack nets at this point.
Yet, the athletic complex and bonding project, which included improvements to schools across the district, are not entirely completed. "We haven't wrapped up the project yet. The whole bonding project included new roofs at [John] Lyman [Elementary School] and Memorial [Middle School] and three wells, one of which is in construction at Brewster [Elementary School]," Currlin explained.
Along with the district wide improvements, some amenities of the athletic complex, like a completed bathroom facility and completed stadium lights, were stopped after the foundations were put in.
A legal battle drained the funds that would have allowed their completion. "[We] spent quite a bit getting permits. Lights were part of the original plan. If you look out [into the facility], you'll see the foundations. We had an abutter who exercised their rights. [We] spent quite a bit defending ourselves. We have to build a sound barrier, ten feet high, along the woods."
That area is on the East side of the parking lot, closest to Guire Road. However, Currlin assured there will be a gate to allow access through the sound barrier and into the trails behind it.
There are alternative ways to glean the money for the final costs, which, according to Currlin, will not impact the current budget nor cost the taxpayer any money.
"[We] have some ideas to get money, not just for the lights but for other things. People have offered to contribute. The Benchwarmers - Coginchaug's athletic booster club - are donating a scoreboard."
While the entire project is still, technically, in the construction stage, the athletic complex, specifically the track, is ready for use by the high school, who will begin conducting practices on it in the coming week. Not only will the track team be able to use the facility to practice, but Coginchaug, according to the CIAC website, is set to host the Shoreline Conference championship for track on May 25.
(Correction: The Shoreline Conference boys' and girls' championships will be held at East Hampton High School on May 25)
The ability to host large scale athletic events, which the 1000 seat grandstand and expanded parking lot help facilitate, is not only a privilege for Coginchaug, but a means of revenue. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference often requests to use neutral sites that are modernized and large enough to hold an above average sized crowd for state tournament games across all sports. While it is just beyond the realm of speculation to think the CIAC will eventually end up asking Coginchaug to use their facilities, which can host football, soccer, and track and field, Currlin thinks it is probable.
"A full, eight lane track is very desirable. We may or may not be contacted by them for track. Soccer, certainly." Hosting these large scale events is, "entirely what we want," Currlin added.
An official opening for the complex is expected, but there are no plans for one yet. The Building Committee hopes to sign off on the athletic complex by the 17th of this month.
Completing the athletic complex could be deemed arduous at times, and breathtaking-to-see at others. For most though, especially those that attended Coginchaug prior to the athletic complex, it's something the school deserved, and something exciting to see.
Eric Dlugolenski, a substitue teacher at Coginchaug and alumnus of the school, recollected what it was like when he was there. "It was awful. We had to take a short, blue bus to football practice at Vinal [Technical High School in Middletown]," he said.
While a lot of alumni and town residents will have missed out on the chance to play their sport on the new complex, they will eventually have the chance to utilize it.
"That was the original plan, for people who would like to, to walk on it. We have to set up some rules. Where and when, what parts people can use," said Currlin.
Dlugloenski certainly plans to take advantage of the facility.
"I'm definitely excited to go down and watch games on Fridays, as well as jog on the track."