RESIDENTS LISTEN to comments at Tuesday’s planning board meeting in Brunswick. The board voted to approve Bowdoin College’s $4.5 million renovation of Whittier Field. The college will conduct an acoustics study to make sure they are able to stay within ordinance restricted decibel levels.

RESIDENTS LISTEN to comments at Tuesday’s planning board meeting in Brunswick. The board voted to approve Bowdoin College’s $4.5 million renovation of Whittier Field. The college will conduct an acoustics study to make sure they are able to stay within ordinance restricted decibel levels.


After considering the testimony of neighbors of Bowdoin’s Whittier Field, the planning board Tuesday approved the renovation of the college’s athletic complex and its subsequent extended nighttime use.

As a condition, the college must have an independent acoustics study determine whether they meet noise levels to allow regular activity on the field past 8 p.m.

Bowker Street resident Mark Battle, who suggested the study, said after the meeting he was pleased with the condition, and said many important community conversations were had through the process of negotiating terms with the college, though it was a lot of work and effort.

Planned renovations

Whittier Field, built in 1903, was originally a day use facility, which will change this fall. The renovation of the field includes:

• Replacing the existing grass field with artificial turf and adding lights, seating and a new press box.

• Expansion of the current six-lane track to the eight lanes required to host championship track meets.

• Restoration of the original footprint of Hubbard Grandstand through the removal of bleachers.

• Construction of a ones-tory support building that will house locker, training and equipment rooms and public restrooms.

The height of the lighting is proposed 90 feet, and the foot candle — the unit of measure for light intensity — has been reduced from 75 to 50. Once installed, the lighting will be tested to ensure it does not produce light pollution.

It is unclear how many nights a week the field could be used. The college expects scheduling will also include three to four evening home football games during the season, and pick-up lacrosse games twice a week during the winter. The college will also not allow music at practices, which will end by 6:45 p.m.

The original plan that came before the planning board suggested at 9 p.m. lights would be shut off, with the exception of 10 night games per year, in which case the lights will be out by 10 p.m. Most activity on the field will end by 7:30 p.m., according to Bowdoin representatives.

There will be no change to location and volume levels of the current sound system, including the use of music, with the exception of music before the start of lacrosse games, which have been added for the use of the field. Men’s lacrosse will be added to the schedule that already includes track and field and football.

The project plan indicates the design allows the use of the field by Bowdoin soccer teams. Intramural and club sports may also use the facility for an estimated two nights a week.

Public gate access will be limited to Pine Street with the exception of an emergency entrance on Bowker Street. Bus traffic, drop-offs and deliveries will also remain on Pine Street.

Bowdoin College spokesman Scott Hood said in a previous interview the college began planning for the renovation in May 2016. Bowdoin trustees are expected to review and vote on the second phase of the project this month which, if approved, is expected to be completed by fall 2018, according to the college. Hood said phase two is still in the planning process.

Battle said if the sound levels are below 45 decibels, then the increased use of the field is acceptable. The ordinance calls for no noise above 55 decibels during the day, and 45 decibels after 8 p.m. The decibel level is determined by the average recorded during one hour of activity.

Forty-five decibels is akin to songbird chatter or the noise in a library setting, said residents, who added it is unlikely the associated sounds of football practice will be comparable. Battle said he would be surprised if the college will be able to meet the noise standard.

Battle himself measured noise levels in the neighborhood with a professional-grade sound meter, and said, for example, a dog barking read 60 decibels. A Frisbee game he recorded at Whittier Field, standing about 70 feet from the sideline, read 50 to 55 decibels.

Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Hutchinson said in his 20 years at the position, nobody has ever complained about noise from the field.

When the college has completed the study, it will be brought to the planning board and a public hearing will be set.

There are 10 nighttime football games scheduled throughout the season that are exempt from this condition.

Battle wanted to make it clear conversations between neighbors and the college always remained respectful. “There has never been mutual animosity or hostility,” he said.

Addressing the board, resident Kathy Thorson said the board should listen to neighbors in the area.

“We are here for the long term, we are who you represent,” she said.

Matthew Orlando, Bowdoin’s senoir vice president of finance and administration and treasurer, said the spirit of competition embodied in athletics complements the college’s strong academic reputation. He said about one-third of the population at Bowdoin — 600 students — are involved in sports.

“We want students to be engaged, independent, adaptive global citizens, and robust athletics helps with that,” Orlando said.

He said upgrades to Whittier Field are long overdue, saying the field was in tough shape, which has resulted in its under utilization.

Bowdoin estimates construction will begin this month on the $4.5 million renovation that will include lighting, a new track, and turf field at the complex.

In the fall, part of phase two of the project will include building a new 9,000-squarefoot locker room and training room. The project will have to come before the planning board for approval.

In a statement after the meeting, Bowdoin College spokesman Scott Hood said the college is very pleased to be moving forward with the long-awaited project.

“The work will get underway at Whittier Field early next week, and we look forward to playing football on the new field in September,” Hood said. “While there are still some questions about potential noise at the facility, we will work with neighborhood residents and the town — as we always do — to mitigate any negative impact. Our goal is to make sure Whittier Field remains a point of pride for the college, as well as a place where the campus community can join with local residents to enjoy all the great things about athletic competition.”

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