By Aaron Keebaugh
The cold weather didn’t keep state and city officials, about 100 Revere High School student-athletes, and residents from Harry Della Russo Stadium Tuesday afternoon when Mayor Dan Rizzo formally announced that state funding would be used to refurbish the stadium.
Massachusetts’s Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) awarded Revere a $2,720,000 grant by way of the Gateway Cities Parks Program. Revere was one of 24 communities that were eligible for the program.
Previous plans to renovate the stadium, ones that drew upon private fund-raising, were unsuccessful. But the current grant will help transform Della Russo Stadium into a multi-use facility comprising renovated football and soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts on the northern edge, and a regulation track, Mayor Rizzo said Tuesday.
Over $700,000 of the grant money will be budgeted for FY 2014, with $2 million coming in FY 2015 for the “complete refurbishing,” Rizzo said. The total cost of the structure will be $4–5 million, with the grant money covering about 70 percent of the cost, he added. Work on the project is set to begin in June and will run through May 2015.
“Revere is home to thousands of children desperate for green space to play,” Rizzo said, noting that the new stadium will be important for the city’s football, lacrosse, and soccer programs.
Richard Sullivan, secretary of the EEA, stated that the new stadium will provide access for all city residents. State programs like these, he said, are designed to “leave Revere and other towns in a better place than when we found [them].”
Cate Blackford, director of Healthy Community Initiatives for the city, agreed, adding that the new field will be “an incredible resource for the community.” She also noted that the city will host its second City-Wide Fitness Challenge beginning in late April.
Assistant School Superintendent Diane Kelly, speaking in place of an ill Dr. Paul Dakin, said the new stadium renovation “is really important for kids.” She went on, “[The kids] deserve nothing less than what kids in more affluent communities have.” Sports programs, she added, develop well-rounded kids.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the grant was the sign of another shining moment for Revere.
Commenting on Della Russo’s legacy as city councillor, mayor, and state legislator, State Treasurer Steven Grossman said, “It’s time he plays a leading role.”
The Gateway Cities grant comes just one week after the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) approved funding for the new McKinley School—to be named the Sgt. James Hill School—on the site of Hill Park. “If this is not another moment to feel optimistic, I don’t know what is,” Grossman said.
Added State Rep. Kathi Reinstein, “I can’t wait until 2015 when here at the stadium the Revere Patriots will beat the Winthrop Vikings!”