Emilie Andrews, Staff Writer
November 13, 2023
The Class I parking lot next to McLeod Field has been called “Sketchy” for many years due to its unfinished gravel surface. However, rumors have circulated that the famous lot may soon be paved. Though the rumors are true, the new plan is more nuanced than merely another paving job. Sketchy Lot and McLeod Field are on sight to be transformed into a hybrid parking and Middle School recess space. While this project is in the works, there is still much planning to be done before approval and advancements begin.
Although student and faculty parking lots have been sufficient and successful, a more reliable parking area for events is necessary. As athletics at Nobles continues to flourish, game days are increasingly popular spectating events. According to Director of Buildings and Grounds (B&G) Mike McHugh, Nobles struggles with a parking shortage 60 days every year, mostly during sporting events and larger school events. McHugh said, “There are a few events that we are “at capacity” [including] graduation, Grandparents Day, and many admissions events.” Although McLeod Field can house a slew of these cars, overflow often ends up in other areas of campus such as the lot near the turf fields or even up to the back gate.
Regardless of how many cars McLeod can safely accommodate, the field simply can’t withstand harsh weather. “There was really a concern over how to maintain the lot in the wintertime, and how to maintain it when there is bad weather. When there is heavy rain it just becomes a muddy mess,” McHugh said. Car tires often get stuck in the mud, causing congestion and creating harsh tire marks, tearing up the grassy field. Several years ago, the football team used McLeod Field for practices, but due to the many uneven surfaces, the field became inoperative. When the school’s need for parking spaces grew, McLeod Field transformed into a full-time parking area.
In an effort to make a more “concrete” event and student parking space, B&G has been working with the financial office to design and approve a new combined space using both Sketchy and McLeod. The future lot will be paved, and freshly lined to separate student parking from guest parking during events. Additionally, the new space will feature a Middle School play area for students to use during the recent addition of Middle School recess. The play area will be comprised of both turf and paved spaces for field games and activities such as four square and basketball. Furthermore, the combined area will include new technological features, such as lighting and water access. Plans also incorporate a seating area for those who are just looking for another place to relax on campus.
While the community can expect the project to be completed within the coming years, many things are still unknown. Before any kind of construction can begin, the town of Dedham and Nobles’ Financial Office must approve the project. Every year, the Financial Office allots budgets for upcoming projects, big and small. Chief Financial and Operating Officer Steve Ginsberg said, “This project will be paid for out of the school budget or accumulated reserves. It’s not an inexpensive project, but it’s not to the level of the [Putnam] Library.”
Though the construction likely won’t begin until late summer of 2024 at the earliest, this project is something for students to have on their radar, as it could mean more accessible parking for family and friends visiting campus during crowded school events. “There is still a lot of work to be done before this project is approved. To move forward, we will still need to get the town approval, and confirm the financial piece with the board of trustees,” Ginsberg said. “But hopefully, in around the next three months, we will have a better sense of whether the project will move forward.”
Since Sketchy is on track to be paved, many may be questioning whether or not Nobles has sufficient student parking. To debunk any concerns, campus lots contain more than sufficient space to house student transportation. Despite this fact, lots often fill up based on individual preference and convenient access to athletic afternoon programs. The new combination of Sketchy and McLeod is not designed to offer greater availability for student-preferred parking, and instead will largely be used for guests arriving on campus to watch games or participate in large events.
(Photo Credit: Zack Mittelstadt)