City plans fixes to Moakley Park’s Saunders Stadium

Saunders Stadium on the South Boston-Dorchester line is slated for a renovation project this fall to replace the turf field, the track surface, and some of the light banks.
Seth Daniel photo

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department intends to renovate Moakley Park’s Saunders Stadium this year in advance of a larger effort to transform and add climate resiliency features to the overall parkland.

Saunders includes an artificial turf field that hosts high school football, lacrosse and soccer, the Boston Youth Lacrosse League, adult soccer, a women’s rugby club, and a popular summertime track-and-field program for city kids.

Ryan Woods, the city’s parks commissioner, said the fixes there can’t wait on the larger Moakley project.

“This is not part of the overall Moakley plan,” he said. “It’s just so heavily used that it has outlived its useful life. … When the larger Moakley project gets started, it would be a 10-year construction cycle with 4 or 5 phases, with 1.5 years in each phase.

“We’ll do this project at Saunders and work our way around Moakley Park…This is just to let kids play for the next five or 10 years until the stadium is an actual project.”

Moakley Park was pegged for a massive re-design in 2019 that would update amenities and provide a flood protection barrier for South Boston, Dorchester, and the South End. Last year, federal officials delivered $2.2 million in earmark funds to get the project prep work started. Indications are that work would begin on the northern side of Moakley by Preble Circle. In the current Moakley plan, Saunders would be eliminated, and a new field and track facility would be built in the Preble Circle area.

The Saunders renovation project was approved by the Conservation Commission this month. Woods said they would be ripping up the old turf field, which is about 12 years old, introducing a new drainage system, and installing new turf. Likewise, they will be repairing the track and laying down a new synthetic surface. Finally, they will set up the four light banks (of eight) that haven’t yet been replaced.

Woods said they plan to put the project out to bid in June and hope to have pricing by the end of the month, allowing a contractor to get on board. Nothing will likely start until September. A key to timeliness will be pre-ordering the turf field, a product that is plagued with supply chain delays. He noted other fields have taken 5 to 12 weeks for delivery.

“There will be no fences going up until we have the turf ready. We won’t tear up the field and wait six weeks to install the turf.”

Other work, he said, will be dictated by the weather. If it is too cold to lay down the track surface, they will leave the new asphalt surface in place and return in the spring to finish the track. The construction period is expected to last two months.

Subscribe to the Dorchester Reporter