Town discussion of new field house postponed

by Heyi Jiang | 5/4/16 5:31pm

The Hanover Town Planning Board postponed the hearing of the College’s application for a site plan review to construct a new athletic facility near Tyler Road, in the vicinity of Thompson Arena. The hearing will take place on June 7 instead. Planning Board chairwoman Judith Esmay said that a request was made by the project manager representing the College Board of Trustees to delay the hearing.

Esmay declined to comment further, saying that it is still premature for the Planning Board to express any opinions on the College’s application.

Site plan review is the Board’s process of reviewing documents and drawings related to the project to ensure zoning ordinance standards and state and federal statutes are met.

Deputy director of athletics Robert Ceplikas ’78 wrote in an email that the request was made so that the College could give full consideration to some concerns recently submitted by neighborhood residents. The additional time will be used for further discussion with project architects, zoning experts and other consultants, he said, to evaluate options and fully prepare for the June 7 hearing.

Ceplikas said that the need for a new field house arises as the existing facilities may not be able to meet the demand of student-athletes.

“With Dartmouth being the northernmost Ivy League school, our student-athletes urgently need more indoor practice space, as Leverone Field House is bursting at the seams,” Ceplikas said.

Ceplikas said that once completed, the new field house would provide 56,000 square feet of artificial turf for teams such as football, lacrosse, soccer, baseball and softball to practice during cold and inclement weather.

According to an article published by The Valley News in April, the College expects construction to begin in November 2016 and end in November 2017.

In the same article, multiple residents expressed their concerns, which largely revolves around the facility’s appearance and the College’s alleged encroachment towards the neighborhood. The proposed field house is the newest College sports facility since the Alex Boss Tennis Center was completed in 2000.

Six residents of Tyler Road approached by The Dartmouth did not on respond to requests to comment on the proposed facility.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that the concerns from the residents mainly touch upon the appearance of the building, commenting that while the facility would be large in size, the supposedly monolithic exterior could also appear rather stark. Griffin said that certain features could be added in via landscaping to make the facility “feel a little warmer” and blend more into the neighborhood.

However, some may hold the view that since the residents bought their houses adjacent to the College’s athletic field, they should have been prepared for the construction of new facilities in the area, Griffin said.

“The town’s role is to figure out how to walk on this tight rope between neighbors’ needs and property owners’ needs, in this case the College,” she said.

Ceplikas said that the College has been actively engaged with the neighbors in the past few months. The College has been providing residents with previews of the plans. Adjustments have also been made in response to the residents’ concerns regarding the facility’s exterior and landscaping plan. The College has also been working closely with Hanover officials, in order to ensure the proposed facility’s full compliance with zoning ordinances and building code requirements.

Griffin said that she foresees a lot of give and take happening at the Planning Board meetings, where both members of the public and the College’s representatives will attend. At the meeting, the Planning Board will serve as the middle ground between the residents and the College, as well as trying to determine if the building meets the town’s requirements and if the College’s proposal addresses the concerns of the residents, such as the integration of the building into the neighborhood.