City Council Agrees to Terms With Donor Group, Nursery Field Turf Project Gets OK’d  

The artificial turf and drainage installation will transform an 82,000-square-foot athletic field on 6.75 acres of city-owned property along Milton Road. It will be the first time that a city-owned field will have artificial turf. 

Nursery Field is now slated to receive artificial turf.
The city will now prepare to put the artificial turf plans for Nursery Field out to bid, after the City Council reached an agreement Wednesday with a private donor group to fund the project. Photo Christian Falcone
Published May 2, 2024 9:06 PM
4 min read


The City Council on Wednesday night ironed out an agreement with a local donor group and voted to approve an artificial turf project at Nursery Field, ending more than a year of contentious deliberations over the project.  

The artificial turf and drainage installation will transform an 82,000-square-foot athletic field on 6.75 acres of city-owned property along Milton Road. It will be the first time that a city-owned field will have artificial turf. 

The project, which initially received the support of a majority of the City Council at a meeting last month, required additional time to finalize the agreement with the donor group, Let the Kids Play, which has pledged up to $3 million to pay for the plan.  

Republican Councilman Bill Henderson, a supporter of the artificial turf project, thanked his council colleagues for working with him to help finalize the donor agreement, which was reflected in the City Council’s unanimous vote to accept the agreement at its Wednesday night meeting.  

“Nobody got everything they wanted, but I think it was good that we could all work together,” he said.  

Now the city will send the project out for final design and construction bids. The donor group has until May 31 to provide the city with $100,000 to prepare those bid documents. The donor group will then have until July 1 to come up with an additional $2.9 million toward the project. 

A request by the donor group to reduce the upfront cost from $2.9 million to $2.5 million until there was a clearer picture of the full cost of the project was shot down by a majority of the council. Council members said the cost of the project is estimated at $2.93 million.  

The donor group is required to fund the full cost of the project, including soft costs, within 45 days of the city receiving the bid. If the cost exceeds the current estimate, the donor group will be responsible for raising the necessary money before the city awards the bid.  

Rendering of an artificial turf surface at Nursery Field
A rendering of the new Nursery Field once the playing surface is transitioned from a grass to artificial turf.
Photo courtesy Let the Kids Play

Matt Pymm, founder of Let the Kids Play, thanked the council for seeing the project through to the finish line.  

‘It’s been about a year since I first came up here. It’s been an interesting journey to get to this point,” Pymm told the council. “The volunteer coaches say thank you for this opportunity for sure. So I want to say thank you for all of them. I know it has not been easy.”  

The donor group, a registered nonprofit, has also committed to helping improve additional field space in Rye, including grass surfaces.  

The move to back artificial turf is the culmination of a long and acrimonious battle in the community over whether to support the project or chart a new course for the city to address a lack of field space. Supporters of the artificial turf project argued that the field should be synthetic since many games and practices have to be cancelled because the field takes a long time to drain after it rains. 

If the donor group fails to meet the council’s requirements, the agreement will be voided. Under that scenario, the city manager would begin to explore the possibility of an alternative grass field and drainage project at the Nursery Field site.  

The city also included in the agreement up to $250,000 toward the field’s aesthetics, for the benefit of its neighbors, including the planting of additional trees and safety and noise mitigation.  

“The majority of the council feels receiving the gift and moving forward with the Nursery Field project is appropriate,” Democratic Councilman Josh Nathan said. “This is designed to accept the gift and advance the Nursery Field project. We spent hours trying to get this right.” 

The city legally cannot put shovels in the ground until Aug. 1 due to the parameters of the 2002 agreement when the city bought the property. The latest timeline suggests that construction will not begin until mid-October.  

The council also authorized spending up to $50,000 to defend the city, City Council, city Board of Appeals and the building inspector, which were all named defendants in a lawsuit challenging approval of the project.  

On April 5, the local Friends of Nursery Field group and 11 of its members sued the city, looking to reverse the course of the artificial turf project and require the plan to go through more extensive regulatory channels. That lawsuit continues to make its way through the courts with the group’s goal to keep the playing field grass. 

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