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It’s Coming Down - Old Bridgetown school being demolished; track and soccer sports facility in design stages

The old Bridgetown Regional High School is slated for demolition. Almost 1,000 pages of tender documents have been released with bids closing on April 19. When the building is gone and the property restored it will be ready to be turned into a soccer field and memorial garden. Behind that where the current track and soccer field are located, a new eight-lane track is planned with an artificial turf soccer field in the middle.
The old Bridgetown Regional High School is slated for demolition. Almost 1,000 pages of tender documents have been released with bids closing on April 19. When the building is gone and the property restored it will be ready to be turned into a soccer field and memorial garden. Behind that where the current track and soccer field are located, a new eight-lane track is planned with an artificial turf soccer field in the middle. - Lawrence Powell

Working group holding meetings since November

BRIDGETOWN, NS - “I believe you deserve a nice new track next door, and that’s our next project.”

Those were the words of Nova Scotia Premier and Annapolis MLA Stephen McNeil to students when he opened the new Bridgetown Regional Community School on Sept. 25, 2017.

His speech was interrupted by a big burst of applause at that point.

Six months later a community working group has already met several times and visions of a state-of-the-art soccer and athletics facility are taking shape on paper. While McNeil doesn’t know what the final facility will look like he’s still adamant that the property surrounding the new school be transformed into a sports facility of regional significance.

That means demolishing the old Bridgetown Regional High School. The tender documents for that work have been released with bids closing on April 19. That was always the plan. The old school is coming down.

"When we first started talking about a new school we looked at a number of sites because this current school, to repair it would have cost us as much as to actually build a new school -- and we still would have had an old building. It just simply made economic sense."

-- Stephen McNeil

At this point reports suggest the new facility will be built in phases with the first one being a soccer field where the old school was and a memorial park, dedicated to BRHS, in front of that on Granville Street.

A later phase could include a new and enhanced eight-lane athletics track with associated sports like long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault to one side and a soccer field in the middle on artificial turf. A separate nine-aside soccer field on the other side of the tennis courts near the new school could play host to shot put, discus, and javelin.

Work would also include improvements to the tennis courts, removal of trees that might affect the new track, and repaving and landscaping.

Early reports indicate the overall project would cost between $5 and $6 million.

A working group has been holding meetings since last November to talk about and design a new athletics track and soccer sports facility in Bridgetown using existing sports fields and the location of the old high school once BRHS is demolished.
A working group has been holding meetings since last November to talk about and design a new athletics track and soccer sports facility in Bridgetown using existing sports fields and the location of the old high school once BRHS is demolished.

Working Group

McNeil has been following the efforts of the working group that hosted a design charet on March 27 when more than a dozen community members came together to share old memories of the school, reflected on the current understanding of the site, and looked toward a future vision of the site for Bridgetown.

Consultants Architecture49 coordinated the process and are looking forward to future meetings in the community as the school lands get transformed to what those involved consider the betterment of the school and community.

The working group of community members has been meeting since November, but the idea of building a regional sports facility goes back a number of years.

“When we first started talking about a new school we looked at a number of sites because this current school, to repair it would have cost us as much as to actually build a new school -- and we still would have had an old building,” said McNeil. “It just simply made economic sense.”

McNeil admits to having an emotional attachment to the old school that he says has been an important part of the community’s collective journey.

“But at some point you have to ask yourself economically from a taxpayer’s point of view does it make sense. And it didn’t,” he said. “And then we went down this journey of siting a new school and what a new school would look like.”

Kept the Fields

McNeil said it became obvious the best piece of property to buy was the one they bought and that the new school is on because it would be adjacent to the physical footprint of the old school that was owned by the province.

“It allowed us to keep those fields,” he said. “It would allow us to tear down the old school, repurpose that part where the (old) school is into part of the athletic complement that is around that school. It’s also why the entry point goes down Faye Road and then turns in on Cromwell Court because we didn’t want to chunk up that piece of property. Once you start putting a road in there it eliminated our ability from and athletic point of view to enhance those facilities. That’s why we are currently in that position and that’s why the school is coming down.”

McNeil said he’s made no secret that that he believes the existing track needs to be modernized.

"While that school is an iconic building and an important part of our community it is now time to look at the next 50 years and not reminisce about the last 50."

-- Stephen McNeil

“We have a deep track history in this town and in this community,” he said. “Bill Hirtle, Dick Campbell – the list goes on of people who have built up a tremendous track program. Congress was always held there. We want to enhance that part of this facility, but I think it’s also ensuring that we (ask) what can we do in and around this school that would allow community assets to be maximized in terms of athletic facilities and at the same time ensuring they’re there for students.”

He said it’s all part of a broader athletic vision for the new school and for the town.

“We know that we need that space where the (old) school is, and it’s why all the decisions were made about entry points and all that other stuff,” he said. “While that school is an iconic building and an important part of our community it is now time to look at the next 50 years and not reminisce about the last 50. We now know what this facility is going to look like and imagine what our children and the next generation of children will require and to have the same athletic and academic opportunities we did.”

Opportunity

He said he believes the new school provides the academic opportunities and he believes the new outside sports fields and facilities will provide them with the athletic ones.

McNeil said there are some people who believe old school should remain and they can renovate. To that end he said the elementary school is now in the hands of the county, has a bigger footprint and could be used for development or affordable housing.

“When the decision was made for the new school to go where it went, every decision we made thereafter was to look at how could we preserve the physical footprint, to imagine what a new athletic facility in and around that would look like and we’re excited about the possibilities,” he said.

McNeil even sees the Annapolis River being incorporated into the proposed facility.

“Part of the property that goes to the river in behind belongs to the school property. You could definitely have access to that,” he said. “Put a dock in that we connect with the one at Jubilee park and it could very much be a rowing environment, canoeing. It could all be part of the educational experience that we get.”

But that’s not all.

“If you look down deeper in that property there’s a pond. The biology students – all of that could be part of the educational component so it provides a very broad footprint and opportunity from an educational point of view and athletic point of view,” he said. “I think we need not to make short-sighted decisions but long-term vision about what we want to have here and I think when you look at this long-term vision about what this educational community could look like I think parents and students will be happy with the outcomes.”

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