In a little more than two weeks, North Reading will host one of the largest high school athletic events in the town's history. On May 27, the Division 4 East state track and field meet will find as many as 700 student athletes swarming the Arthur J. Kenney track and field complex. On top of that, at least 1,000 spectators are expected in North Reading that day to cheer on the best from Eastern Massachusetts.
More than 10 years ago, when members of the North Reading Youth Soccer (NRYS) board started discussing a new turf field facility, this is exactly the kind of event they had in mind. What started as a NRYS dream eventually morphed into a town-wide effort that resulted in the crown jewel that sits in front of the high school in the center of town. It wasn't easy, but a never-say-die attitude got it done.
Numerous roadblocks sat on the path from the beginning, the most important of which was, "where are we going to get the money?" On top of that, there were issues such as: where would the field be located, who would oversee the facility, who would get to use it, and could we get the town to support it.
There were several starts and stops, but NRYS pushed forward. With the strong support of and cooperation with other North Reading youth sports leagues and the Parks and Recreation Department, the project finally got on its feet and progress was made. Their still, however, were major hurdles and at times it seemed like giving up might be the best route.
But the group marched on and through a unique agreement between the school department, the town, parks and recreation and the Hillview Commission, the field became a reality. I would be lying if I said there was not a lot of fear and trepidation, along with some serious arm twisting to get everyone on board. There were many doubters and there was concern that the amount of funding from the Hillview, $2 million, would not be enough to get the project done. But all those involved took a leap of faith with the attitude of: "if we don't do it now, it will never get done."
On the day before Thanksgiving in 2009, the field made its debut with a spirited powderpuff football game between NRHS junior and senior girls, and the next day the annual Thanksgiving day battle with Lynnfield took place. Since then, there has been non-stop action at the field.
The Arthur J. Kenney Field is a source of pride for North Reading. Visitors from other towns often remark about the beauty of the facility and wonder how their town can get the same thing. I, and I am sure hundreds of other North Reading residents, feel a sense of excitement and accomplishment, driving by Arthur J. Kenney Field at night and seeing soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, football and other sports being played under the lights.
The new track and field would never have happened if those who first dreamed the idea threw their hands up in the air and gave up when the roadblocks became to large. It never would have happened if the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, Parks and Recreation and the Hillview Commission gave up because the complications around the agreement became too contentious. It never would have happened if we all did not keep the pressure on to get it built.
There are several major projects on North Reading's agenda, include a new secondary school building and a town sewer system. I am confident that those leading the charge will show the same fortitude and perseverance and will deliver results that continue to make North Reading a great community in which to live.