Sacred Heart University is looking to continue its expansion beyond its main campus in Fairfield to Morehouse Park in Easton, according to a Letter of Intent sent to First Selectman David Bindelglass dated Feb. 21. The park is on town-owned property adjoining the Samuel Staples Elementary School campus on Morehouse Road.
The university’s proposal calls for using the area within Morehouse Park for new athletic facilities. These include the repurposing of an existing field for a field hockey pitch with synthetic turf and six to eight hard-surface tennis courts. Fences with lockable gates would be built around the field hockey pitch and tennis courts. Also part of the plan is an unpaved cross-country trail that would surround the area. A storage building is a possibility.
Bindelglass will hold a public information meeting about the proposal on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Easton Library community room.
The meeting promises to be a lively forum of opposing opinions, which Bindelglass welcomes. “Morehouse Park is a contentious issue, and it’s my goal to make the process as open and inclusive as possible.” he said. “That means involving all town departments and the public in the spirit of sharing their differing points of view.”
Selectman Kristi Sogofsky has heard from many people who have questions or raised concerns about the recent Letter of Intent and encourages residents to attend.
“This is an ongoing conversation. It is so important for people to have accurate information,” she said. “Reach out to town officials. Get the facts so we as a community can work together to make an informed decision. Keep in mind it is a work in progress and we want you to be part of the discussion.”
It’s important to note that the exact boundaries of the premises have not yet been determined.
The initial term of the lease would be 15 years from the date the agreement is executed. Sacred Heart would have three 10-year extension options. Easton would retain the title and ownership of the land on which the facilities would be constructed.
Sacred Heart would bear all construction costs and any and all permit, application, and consultant fees. The university would also be responsible for all maintenance and repairs necessary to keep the facilities in a condition suitable for intercollegiate competition. However, in the event it fails to maintain the facilities according to this standard, then the town can require restoration of the premises to its condition as of the commencement date of the agreement.
The university’s athletic teams would have first priority for use of the facilities; Easton youth sports teams would have second priority. Town residents would have access to the cross-country trail except during university practices and games, and to the tennis courts on a first come, first served basis when both the university and the town youth teams are not using them.
There would be no cost to the town’s youth teams and residents for using the facilities.
Easton would retain the right to authorize CIAC (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) games so long as they don’t conflict with the university’s NCAA games.
For all university practices and games, the town would grant the university limited, nonexclusive parking on grass and other permeable surfaces adjacent to the facilities. In an effort to avoid overcrowding, Sacred Heart would bus athletes, coaches, and spectators to the area.
Sacred Heart would be responsible for providing water and electrical service to the facilities, and paying the associated bills. The property would not have permanent restrooms or a septic system. Portable toilets, however, would be available and maintained by the university.
Lights would be allowed for security purposes, but playing services would not be lit for night play. Surveillance cameras would be installed and maintained by the university. Electronic scoreboards would be permitted. Signage would be unlighted and approved by the town.
Sacred Heart would provide security personnel for all school-related practices and games. Easton’s police department would handle security at all other times.
In return for the university’s use of the property, town residents — as well as students of Joel Barlow High School — would have access to the university’s library, IT center, and cultural and sporting events. Additional university facilities and programming that have yet to be built or created would be available to these communities.
Click here to read the Letter of Intent in its entirety and to view a map of the proposed plans.