At Wednesday night's information session at on the Athletic Complex and Petersen Pool, Mayor Joseph Sullivan likened the proposal to his mother's description of her dressed-up outfits, as in "something old, something new and something borrowed."
The old part, Sullivan said, is the $65,000 gift to Braintree from Captain August Julius Petersen on his death in 1963 for a pool at that has since increased in value to $1.8 million. Under the proposal, that money would go toward a combined pool and hockey rink with an estimated cost of between $7.5 million and $10 million.
For nearly 50 years the town has tried to place the pool at Watson, Sullivan said, but "we didn't get it done as a community, and we need to get it done."
What's new is the hockey rink, which would be operated along with the pool by a private company who would lease the land from the town. Funding for synthetic turf on the football field and on a multi-sport field next to the school would be borrowed, by way of a $2 million, 15-year bond requiring approval from the . Lease payments from the company would help defray the cost to the town.
"We've got to test the marketplace," Sullivan told a group of Braintree residents, local officials and high school swimmers. "The economy itself actually lends itself to a competitive marketplace."
A Request for Proposals (RFP), written with language assuring the school sports teams and locals preferential use times and rates, is likely to be issued early next month, Sullivan said, with final bids awarded sometime near the end of March.
Some members of the community have expressed disappointment with the idea that the pool will not be built at Watson Park as Petersen outlined in his will. The town received permission from the Norfolk Probate and Family Court in 2006 to build elsewhere, as long as it was the closest reasonable location, town councilor Leland Dingee said after the meeting.
Dingee, like many others in Braintree, has been working to get the pool built for decades. Dave Oliva, chair of the East Braintree Civic Association, questioned whether residents would benefit as much from the complex with a private company running it.
"Captain Petersen never said anything about a hockey rink or fields, so I don't care what you do about that," he said. "I just want to make sure the people that live here get to use the pool."
Shannon Hume, a school committee member, wondered if the town would be held liable for injuries at the facility.
Based on the wording being developed for the RFP, whatever company wins the bid would be responsible, said Peter Morin, the mayor's chief of staff. Sullivan reiterated that the contract will also make sure locals get a discount on the fees and that there are times set aside for community skating and swimming hours.
"We want to provide as much opportunity to our community and our student athletes as possible," athletic director Michael Denise said.
Sullivan also worked on Wednesday night to assure the public that Watson Park will not be neglected. The plan is to take about $300,000 of the just over $1.8 million in Petersen's account and construct a splash pad, walking trail and picnic area in the park, to be completed sometime next summer. Parking issues in the area will also be scrutinized and more spaces may be added where there are currently seldom-used tennis courts.
"[Petersen] will not be, nor will Watston Park be forgotten," Sullivan said.
One resident who appreciated that sentiment, and who has been working for 20 years on the project, is Paul Wasil, former chair of a committee set up for the purpose.
He described after the meeting how difficult it became to locate the pool at Watson as the years rolled by because it evolved into a large complex of baseball fields. It would not be feasible to put a junior Olympic-sized pool (as recommended at the high school) at the park today, Wasil said, adding that a splash pad, with water circulated through interactive devices like tubes and fake mushrooms sprinklers, is a better option.
"That will be a nice improvement," he said.
The mayor stressed that the designs and the costs he presented were just hypotheticals based on informal interest generated so far. A full bidding process early next year will sort out the final shape of the project. School committee members will also be able to weigh in again before construction begins. They at their Dec. 13 meeting.
Another detail that could end up saving the town money -- in addition to the private leasing fees -- is a process called cogeneration, whereby the would set up a generator at the complex to convert excess energy used for heating into cooling.
Such a modern facility, including space for expansion to a second sheet of ice, could entice visitors from all over the state and region to come for tournaments and stay at the nearby hotels, Sullivan said.
"This is an exciting proposal," he said. "It lends itself to greater use beyond the community."
Youth sports leagues will also be able to take advantage of the new facilities. William Fitzgerald, a member of the board of directors of Braintree Pop Warner, said before the meeting that right now the league has to rent space from , and other schools. The fields are grass and if it rains games often have to be rescheduled, a problem that could be mitigated by synthetic turf.
"It would be huge for us," Fitzgerald said.