Wareham Tigers’ plans for Westfield
The Notos groups’ controversial rezoning proposal for land in East Wareham is not the only thing voters will be asked to weigh-in on at the Special Town Meeting on April 10. When they gather at noon at Spillane Field, voters will also decide whether or not to support two articles that could pave the way for the Wareham Tigers Athletic Association to build and operate their own fields and sports complex in West Wareham.
The Wareham Tigers hope to join Wareham Youth Soccer and Wareham Girls Softball in operating their own sports complex and fields for games and practices at Westfield — 98 Charlotte Furnace Rd. in West Wareham.
If approved by voters at Town Meeting, Articles 2 and 3 on the Special Town Meeting warrant create a path for the Board of Selectmen to lease the Westfield land for a term of up to 30 years — though it does not guarantee that the Wareham Tigers will win the lease.
Back in 2010, Town Meeting attendees approved an article that restricted a portion of the Westfield property for senior housing. However, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said that the town has put out two requests for proposals for developers, and there was no interest in senior housing at the site, due in part to the lack of sewer access.
Therefore, Town Meeting voters will need to first vote to override that 2010 article before offering a lease.
The lease would need to be given through a bid process, so it is not guaranteed that the Tigers will secure the land. The Tigers are not currently seeking any town funding through Community Preservation.
In a recent statement, the Tigers said their plans for the land include:
• A cheer competition gymnasium
• A banquet hall, which will be available to the community
• A locker room
• A concession stand
• A parking lot available to all programs utilizing the Westfield property
• Two full-size gymnasiums for indoor sports to use during the colder months
• Three full-size sports fields
The plans also detailed a project with three phases that would be completed in 10 years.
“With your vote in favor of Articles 2 and 3, we will be able to continue moving forward in providing a safe and high level of sports and education the youth deserve here in Wareham,” the Tigers said in the statement.
In November 2020, Jared Chadwick, the president of the Wareham Tigers Athletic Association, told Wareham Week that much of the land would be for the three sports fields: a main football field, a warm-up/practice field and one practice and flag football field that would be slightly smaller than a regular football field.
After securing the land, the association’s next steps would be clearing the forest currently on the land, getting grass planted and beginning to fundraise, Chadwick said.
“We’re a nonprofit organization, and a lot of it is we’re going to be asking for donations from people out of town, pretty much all over the place,” Chadwick said. “We’re researching a lot of different ways to go about this.”
Over the last year, the Tigers have been conducting fundraising campaigns, soliciting donations from businesses and private donors and applying for grants.
But first, he said, the top priority is acquiring the land.
“We’re the last program that doesn’t have our own fields,” Chadwick said, noting that the Wareham Tigers have been around since 1962. “That’s why we’re shooting for this. It’s a perfect, centrally-located area, it’s along with other programs and we’re trying to bring everyone in on this.”
Currently, the Wareham Tigers football program uses the Wareham High School and Decas School fields and the cheer program uses the cafeteria at the MultiService Center, which is shared with the Council on Aging and Meals on Wheels program. Before each practice, cheerleaders need to move all the furniture aside before carefully replacing it at the end of the night.
The use of school fields has caused some frustration for the league’s leaders, as fees for field usage have cost the non-profit league up to $10,000 annually. The league is also charged whether they use the field or not, as they schedule extra dates in case of inclement weather.
The EEE outbreak in 2019 caused further issues. In prior years, the Tigers used the fields after high school teams finished practice at 5 p.m. Public health restrictions during the summer and fall of 2019 meant that no one was allowed to use the fields after 6 p.m., when the threat of mosquito bites was highest. That gave the Tigers only an hour to practice.
The new fields would ensure the program had the access to practice space athletes need, and could allow the Tigers to expand their program offerings to include youth lacrosse, which is not currently available in Wareham.