WAKEFIELD — After 22 years, since the idea was first conceived for The Prout School to develop a first-rate athletic field for high school students to play soccer and lacrosse, major steps forward have been taken to make that dream a reality.
“As with all good things, this has been a long time in coming,” Principal David Estes said during the ceremonial groundbreaking for Prout’s new multi-purpose field on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
“We’re building this field as a reflection of our highest values as a Catholic diocesan school,” he said.
The new field will be named The Meghan C. Cooney Field, in memory of a 1996 graduate of The Prout School. Meghan died unexpectedly in 2007 while she was a third year student at Boston College Law School. At Prout, Meghan was student council president and salutatorian of her class. She captained the soccer, basketball and softball teams and was selected first team all division in all three sports. She even served as captain of the boy’s tennis team in her junior year.
Following a brief prayer offered by Prout Chaplain Father Carl Fisette for the safety of all those involved in the project going forward, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin joined school and diocesan officials and supporters of the endeavor at the construction site across from the school where they donned hard hats and tossed shovels of dirt to break ground on the long-awaited project.
“It strikes me as very appropriate that this ceremonial groundbreaking takes place right now during the season of Advent as you know one of the primary virtues of Advent is patience,” joked Bishop Tobin.
“You’ve been very patient waiting and hoping and working towards the development of a new field for many, many years. So patience has paid off for you. It’s a great moment.”
Applauding the diocesan Catholic high school’s rigorous and noted academic program, the bishop gave thanks to the diocesan staff who worked very closely with Prout officials and to all who contributed their time, talent or financial resources to launch the field project.
“The work is not done yet,” Bishop Tobin noted. “We need more continued support from you and from other members of the community going forward.
Estes expressed his gratitude to the bishop for his unwavering support for the project, which brought it from a concept to reality.
“We are grateful, Bishop Tobin for your ongoing support over the years. You dedicated funds, and just as importantly, you allowed the expertise of your staff to assist us along the way. When we were nearing the end, you challenged our community one last time with a challenge gift and we met that within a month,” Estes said.
“And we’re grateful for the generosity of over 200 individual donors — the largest fundraising effort in school history by a factor of two and growing. We are grateful to our builders, engineers, business owners, town officials, and we are in debt to our steering and building committees, particularly our fabulous set of [Breaking Ground Committee] Co-Chairs Seana Garrahy Edwards (Class of ’88), and Heather Mayo, who through thick and thin were a big part of this.”
Estes quoted Pope St. John Paul II, an ardent athlete in his youth, who once spoke about the importance of athletics in the development of young people.
“Sportsmanship, as an ideal, is all about character. It’s about humility, honesty, loyalty, respect and generosity. Not a quest for perfection, but like a faith journey, a quest for virtue,” he said.
Estes said that while the plan to build a field was conceived of about 22 years ago, it has been over the past five years that the majority of the work has been done to get the project to this point.
“It was basically a five-year capital campaign that we were gratefully able to finish off even in the middle of a pandemic,” Estes said of the $1.7 million raised or committed thus far that will pay for the field, stands and the lights.
He said that more fundraising needs to be done in order to complete other needed elements of the project, including parking lot improvements.
“Our fundraising continues. Gratefully, we’ve already got a $50,000 challenge gift for the remainder of that. And we just got a $5,000 donation. So we’re already on our way, but more has to be done with fundraising,” he said.
Estes said that while priority will always be given for use of the new field by Prout for its activities and athletics, having the surface lighted will allow for the school to rent additional playing time on it to local sports leagues which will in turn help the school to pay for the cost of the turf.
“We feel very confident that the turf is going to be able to pay for itself with the rentals,” he said. “That’s why we had to have the lights, because we’ll be able to rent the field for longer hours.
He said renting the field out would also have a dual benefit of showcasing the school to guests who may use the facility.
When completed, the field will be playoff length and width for high school lacrosse and soccer and will seat approximately 600 spectators.
“I believe the bishop sincerely believed in this project for us and supported us at critical times,” Estes said, noting how the diocese committed $100,000 in cash early on to help fund the project, and another $100,000 challenge gift at the end to help Prout make its goal.
Estes expressed his gratitude for the expertise on the project offered by diocesan staff, including CFO Mike Sabatino; Vicar of Finance Msgr. Raymond B. Bastia; Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia Msgr. Albert A. Kenney; Catholic Foundation of RI Executive Director Rich Popovic; Stewardship Director Tim McCaig, along with Daryl Thomas; Facilities Manager Gary Ferguson; and former Catholic Schools Superintendent Dan Ferris.
Estes said he was also most grateful for a $100,000 gift from the O’Neil family, who will have naming rights for the viewing area of the field and to an anonymous donor who gave $500,000 and who will have the naming rights for the whole complex, including signage near Route 1.
“This field will stand for generations as a testament to all of the loving, faithful community of The Prout School,” he said.
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