Published in the December 10, 2015 edition


NORTH READING — When the old North Reading High School was torn down, varsity baseball and softball players lost their access to the batting cages in the school basement, set up in what was originally designed to be a Civil Defense fallout shelter.

But now a new battling cage is one step closer to being set up in new high school’s fitness area.

School Committee Vice Chairman Mel Webster said the higher than anticipated revenue from varsity football games and athletic user fees will enable the school department to install a batting cage and artificial turf in the loft of the fitness room.

“The batting cage can be used for baseball and softball and we can use it for other sports as well,” Webster. “It’s an area we didn’t really expect we would be able to use but we are now able to use it.”

Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard informed the Transcript that local resident Scott Ellis, a NRHS alumnus and a member of the Diamond Club, has volunteered to install the equipment.

“It’s going to be a lot less expensive than if we hired someone,” Webster commented.

School Committee member Jerry Venezia, who serves on the Athletic Subcommittee with Webster, said he was informed by Athletic Director Dave Johnson students can use the new space in physical education classes as well.

In response to a question from School Committee member Julie Koepke, Webster said the batting cage will “go across the ceiling and down.”

Bernard said the equipment has been purchased, and school officials are just waiting for the equipment to be delivered before it’s installed. He told the Transcript the equipment costs around $9,900.

The Athletic Subcommittee has been working for the past year to develop a plan to replace the batting cages located in the basement of the old North Reading High School, developed over the years by baseball coach Frank Carey, which were used by both the baseball and softball teams in the beginning of the spring sports season.

Field scheduling

Webster also noted the Athletic Subcommittee discussed sharing athletic facilities with representatives from Parks and Recreation recently.

According to Webster, the subcommittee held a meeting with Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Wayne Hardacker and representatives from his staff as well as retired coach Carey, Parks and Recreation Director Marty Tilton and Parks and Recreation Commission member Rita Mullin to discuss field scheduling at Arthur Kenney Field, Carey Park, the Little School softball field and the fields at Ipswich River Park.

“We came up with a new plan that will make sure all of the fields stay in top condition,” said Webster.