October 12, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer
A couple of Hingham Sports Partnership board members are proposing consideration of a project that could potentially involve converting the old concession and storage building at the Hingham High School multi-purpose playing field into a health and fitness center.
One of the driving factors is that the weight room space that's currently being used is considered to be inadequate to serve the entire HHS student body.
After discussing the possibility with Principal Rick Swanson, Athletic Director Quatromoni, and others, HSP board members Kevin Quilty and Dan Rakauskas participated in the Oct. 7 remote School Committee meeting to float the idea, because the committee controls the property.
"We're asking permission to see if we can do research to . . . [determine whether] this project is even doable -- to kick the tires [so to speak] and then come back before the committee for a more formal presentation."
More than a weight room is needed, he said. "This would be for the whole student body, including special education kids, not just for our sports teams."
A preliminary application was submitted to the Community Preservation Committee seeking possible Community Preservation Act funding under the recreation category for a feasibility study for a potential health and fitness center. The amount to be requested has not yet been determined.
The CPC process is a long one, so this is the first step of many. The final application is due Oct. 12, so time was of the essence in seeking School Committee approval to move forward with the first step.
If the project ultimately moves forward with CPA funding for the feasibility stage and all the necessary approvals in place, the intention is for the HSP to raise the remaining funds.
Quilty emphasized that while there are no definite plans at this time, he and Rakauskas decided the idea merited consideration when they started talking about the possibility several months ago.
"The CPC deadline was approaching, and if we missed it, we would have needed to wait another year," Rakauskas explained.
Prior to Town Meeting 2022, the CPC will make recommendations as to which proposals to include in the warrant. Town Meeting voters have the final say.
Swanson said during the meeting that a new health and fitness center would make "a terrific difference to our students. I'm grateful to the Hingham Sports Partnership for first imagining the idea and then having the vision and energy to try to move this idea forward."
Chair Kerry Ni said that it's important to consider not only the possibility of a new health and fitness center but also use of the weight room, and where the equipment currently stored in the building would go if the proposal were to move forward.
"I think especially following COVID this would be a great thing for our students, and I fully support [exploring the feasibility aspect]."
School Committee member Nes Correnti feels that such a center "is something we need in order to get the high school into the 21st Century."
Member Carlos Da Silva said the proposal at this stage has his full support. "I too appreciate the Hingham Sports Partnership's efforts," he said. "I hope they get some CPA funding, which would make it easier."
Other committee members Liza O'Reilly and Jen Benham raised the question of public access to such a facility, but they both support the moving forward of the request for CPA funds for the feasibility portion.
"I'm sure the Community Preservation Committee will ask that question during the process," O'Reilly said. "It's something to think about."
Following their discussion, the School Committee unanimously endorsed the submission of the final application for the feasibility portion only for this potential project.