The sign at the edge of The Prout School’s front parking lot reads, “Future Home of Prout’s Newest Athletic Facility.”
And that future is getting closer.
Since 2017, the school has been taking steps toward building an artificial turf field for soccer and lacrosse that it hopes will benefit both the school and the community.
Fundraising began in earnest in 2019 and has surpassed $1 million, with about $700,000 more to go, and the school is hoping a final push can lead to a green light sooner rather than later. Permits are secured, the general contractor has been selected, and the project will take just 11 weeks to complete once it’s a go.
“We continue to fundraise, we continue to pitch the idea to local businesses to support,” said Nicole Kelly, Prout’s Director of Institutional Advancement. “As soon as we get that last little bit, we’ll be ready to go.”
Prout currently has one heavily used, multi-purpose field in the back of the school. The boys and girls soccer teams use the middle portion of the field in the fall, while baseball and softball diamonds flank the outer edges for the spring season. Lacrosse teams do not play on campus, relegated mostly to Christofaro Park in Narragansett.
The current field has no lights and is prone to drainage issues. Last year, soccer teams began the fall season with a string of postponements and games shifted to East Greenwich High School’s turf field. The part of the field utilized for soccer is also uneven and smaller than most high school fields. Seating options for spectators are limited.
“Our new artificial surface field will be a much needed and tremendous improvement to our athletic facilities,” said co-director of athletics Duane Maranda. “Currently we have one multi-purpose field for all of our interscholastic field sports as well as physical education classes. Use of the field is weather dependent and it is not lighted.”
The current field will remain in use for baseball and softball, plus potential soccer practices. Soccer games will move to the turf, and lacrosse teams will be able to play on campus.
The new surface will have lights and bleachers with an expected capacity of 500 to 600. It will allow for flexibility in bad weather, lower maintenance costs and more practice time, with teams being able to use both the turf and the old grass field. The school initially hoped to build a field with a track around it, but site limitations would not allow for the track. The field will be positioned parallel to the school, on the edge of the front parking lot.
“I think it’s going to be a real source of pride for the school and for our alumni,” Maranda said.
While Prout teams will be the primary tenants, the school has already connected with several youth sports organizations in South County about renting the field. Kelly said the rental fee will be nominal, mostly just for covering maintenance costs. Several organizations have signed memorandums of understanding to use the field once it’s built.
For Eric Bell, a member of the field committee and a parent of two former Prout athletes, that piece of the puzzle is crucial. Currently, the Narragansett Community Athletic Complex at Narragansett High School is the only artificial turf field south of the tower.
“I think the biggest thing is, if you look at the town of South Kingstown, there aren’t any artificial turf fields. It’s not only a benefit to the school. One of the main reasons I got involved is I think it’s good for the town,” Bell said. “You’ve got all these youth programs that would love to utilize that field. I think it’s a benefit for the school. I think it will attract students and make their athletics bigger. And I think it’s a bigger plus for the town of South Kingstown.”
Naming rights are available for large gifts and advertising opportunities are also available for local businesses.
From the beginning, the goal has been to make the project completely donor-funded, with the school not wanting to raise tuition, impose student fees or take on debt. A side benefit of that approach has been a new sense of what the school community is capable of.
“On another level, it has created a culture of philanthropy in our school community that we really didn’t have before,” Kelly said. “Yes, it’s something that’s specifically for athletics, but people are seeing the power of philanthropy leading to something really spectacular. That’s going to help us pave the way for other projects in academics and arts. They see what the power of a small but committed group of people can do.”