Team Tenney wants to preserve historic grandstand

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BRATTLEBORO — Thanks to the efforts of a number of volunteers, the Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation recently voted to list Brattleboro Union High School's Tenney Field on the Vermont Register of Historic Places.

And while the designation doesn't prevent BUHS #6 from tearing down the grandstand if the board decides to do so, it does give Team Tenney, which formed to save the grandstand, avenues to apply for grants to fix the facility.

"The grandstand is something that really means a lot to the community," said Adam Waite, speaking on behalf of Team Tenney. "It's something generations of people in Brattleboro, and out-of-town families, have come to enjoy over the years."

Waite said while the members of Team Tenney understand the historical designation doesn't prohibit the board from ordering the demolition of the grandstand, they hope they can raise enough money to keep the grandstand in place. They also hope they can pressure the Board of Directors into changing course.

"The administration, the board and the finance committee work for the community," said Waite. "We think that if we can raise enough support, maybe we can change some minds and persuade them this is something worth investing in for the future."

"We are not going to utilize taxpayer funds on a facility that is unsafe and needs major work," said Robert "Woody" Woodworth, vice chairman of the BUHS #6 Board of Directors and a member of the BUHS #6 Finance Committee. "Regardless of how many people used to sit in it, the fact remains it will require a fair expenditure of money."

According to a study conducted in 2009 and revised in 2017, it could cost up to $460,000 to repair the grandstand and the facilities it contains and make it ADA compliant. The grandstand, which was built as part of Stolte Memorial Field in 1947 after the original wood grandstand burned down, has been closed for about three years, mainly because it's not ADA compliant. It was renamed after Carl Tenney, long-time varsity baseball coach, who died in 1998.

"Our basic issue is field space," said BUHS Principal Steve Perrin. "One of the options we looked at was, do we remove the grandstand and create an area for a full-sized field hockey and soccer field?"

Currently, field hockey and soccer games are played on Tenney Field, but the playing space includes the dirt infield of the baseball diamond, which means BUHS can't host playoff games. If the grandstand was removed, said Perrin, "We would be able to shift the infield significantly and create a bigger outfield."

On Aug. 20, the Brattleboro Development Review Board will review an Act 250 permit application to expand a practice field and make it "into a proper field for various uses," said Woodworth. Site work includes grading, new fencing, adjusting storm drains, constructing a new shotput pad and discus pad, and landscaping.

But that's still not enough for all the sports the district offers, said Woodworth.

"Even though we have fewer students in the school system, involvement in sports continues to grow," he said. That includes the addition of Ultimate Frisbee as an official school sport. "When I graduated in 1967, we were just getting into soccer and we didn't have women's sports or lacrosse."

"Right now we have a lot more sports than we have playing fields," said Perrin.

While the board hasn't shown any interest in directing taxpayer funds toward the renovation of the grandstand, said Woodworth, it also hasn't "closed the door" on the idea of a public fundraising campaign.

"We don't have bulldozers fired up," said Woodworth. "We'll evaluate what this means and whether or not the designation will change our plans."

Team Tenney has set up a Facebook page — Save the Grandstand — where it is collecting testimonials and memories about the field and the grandstand. Team Tenney is also asking folks to visit https://donorbox.org/save-the-grand-stands-at-tenney-field and make a donation toward the grandstand renovation.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.

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