NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – It’s just three weeks until Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving means high school football. In New Haven, the Elm City Bowl will have a new home this year. The much anticipated new Bowen field will open for the first time in years.
Bowen Field is the home field of Hillhouse High School. It is an historic field that was badly in need of an update. The renovation took a lot longer than expected, but the ball is now on the one yard line, and school and city officials think they can get it in the end zone before the clock runs out on this football season.
“Miracles happen. We will play on Thanksgiving,” said New Haven Schools’ Chief Operating Officer William Clark at a press conference this morning.
Hillhouse High School has not played a home game on Bowen Field in three years, but that will change in three weeks when they play the Elm City Bowl. “The much anticipated game between Hill House and Wilbur Cross High School,” as New Haven Mayor Toni Harp put it.
The field off New Haven’s Crescent Street was closed after the 2012 season for much needed renovations.
“Well, this field was a natural turf field with a six lane asphalt track,” Clark said. “We had old concrete bleachers and the field was essentially 50 years old.”
That was no surprise. The amount of time it took to replace was a surprise.
“We’re in extra innings, I’m going to put that analogy to it,” said New Haven Schools’ Superintendent Garth Harries. “We have had some come from behind moments in doing that.”
One reason opening the field in 2015 is considered “extra innings” is that when they started the project they looked inside the old bleachers, and inside they found a big problem.
“What held those bleachers together was 4 miles of caulk,” explained Clark. “That caulk was put in in the 1940s and ’50s and so it was laced with some PCBs.”
The PCBs required environmental cleanup. That added time, and it added about $4 million to the cost. Through something called the Urban Act, the city was able to restructure the costs so the state paid for the environmental remediation, and school officials say they did not have to cut back on the field’s amenities, as some had feared.
“Virtually all the originally designed work, including the track and the field and the locker rooms and so forth will all still be part of it,” Clark said. “As well as lights around the field and the practice field behind it.
Bathrooms and locker rooms may not be finished for Thanksgiving. There will be a field, lights and seats, and not much more in three weeks, then they will finish the rest in time for next season.