Brand new athletic complex not scoring big with Hillhouse High parents, coaches

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NEW HAVEN - For almost three full seasons, the Hillhouse High School football program has not had a true home field. That's about to change, but some coaches and parents believe the school system is dropped the ball during the rebirth of Bowen Field.

New Haven Public Schools says the $16.5 million project, paid for largely by state and federal grants, will be complete in time for Hillhouse's season opening game against Creed on Friday September 9. But many have doubts based on the progress.

"There is grass growing through the synthetic field here and, you know, it's a little awkward," said Hillhouse head coach Reggie Lytle.

That, however, is a small issue to tackle compared to others, according to members of the team's booster club.

"I'm perplexed at why a concession stand wouldn't be one of the major things that you were insured was done correctly and properly," said Meredith Benson, who has a son on the team.

A concession stand, for which a shell was built and some equipment has been gathered, was not in the final game plan, according to officials from the New Haven Public Schools. A costly and an unexpected discovery of contaminated soil and bleachers was the primary culprit.

Will Clark, the school system's chief operating officer said, "We knew that the priorities were the field, the priorities were the eight-lane track, the priorities were the lights, the priorities were the bleachers, the priorities with the locker rooms, the priorities were the bathrooms."

Some parents and Lytle believe both the locker room configuration and the fact that there are just three toilet stalls to handle a 60-plus member football team is a plan that should have been flushed.

"The locker room and the bathrooms associated with that were done to plan," according to Clark. "It was put together by the committee with the consultation with the athletics department and the coaches at the time."

Parents also pointed out stained ceiling tiles in the coaches offices, which were a result of an HVAC leak above the trainers room, which Clark says has been repaired.

"Many of the things that were already on track to be resolved have in fact been resolved," said Clark.

Clark says internet access, phone lines, some new sod and other landscaping features are expected to be among the projects checked off by opening night.