LOWELL — After years on the city’s to-do list, Cawley Memorial Stadium has a new synthetic turf field.
The stadium has long served the city’s youth, primarily Lowell High School’s athletics, and after nearly 20 years the turf field was in need of replacement.
“The turf was torn up at places, there was actual cement in a couple spots that was protruding,” City Councilor Daniel Rourke said. “The city has really overused the shelf life of the turf.”
According to City Manager Eileen Donoghue and City Councilor William Samaras, the turf’s condition had become a safety issue. The average life expectancy for a turf field is 10 to 12 years, Donoghue said.
Though several councilors had brought forward motions related to projects at the stadium, it was Rourke who got the ball rolling to replace the turf. He filed a motion to have the surface assessed.
The $527,560 project to install new turf began in August and wrapped up in about a month.
“It’s dynamic, it’s state of the art, it’s the best turf that money can buy. It’s a huge asset to the youth,” Rourke said.
According to Donoghue, the city was lucky to get a “very good bid” and lucky that the contractor was able to complete the work so quickly. Weather and the contractor’s ability to work uninterrupted helped speed up the process.
As Samaras put it, “the stars aligned.”
As part of the project, the city made sure to honor one of its own — the late William “Billy” Rizos. Rizos died April 9, 2019.
A hall of fame athlete and Lowell High alum, Rizos was “a terrific all around guy,” Rourke said.
Known for his love of sports and the community, Rizos supported youth sports programs and donated to local organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell.
Though active and generous with his support of community organizations, Rizos usually donated upon the condition of anonymity.
According to Trinity EMS President John Chemaly, there are many stories of Rizos approaching local organizations after a fundraiser and asking how much they still needed to reach their goal. Then he’d write the check.
“He carried clout, he carried connections but you would never know from the type of person he was,” Chemaly said.
A single father of three, Rizos was motivated by a desire to serve as a role model for his children, according to Chemaly.
“He certainly was. His children should be very proud of what he accomplished over the years,” Chemaly said.
In considering who to dedicate the field to, Rourke said Rizos instantly came to mind.
Rizos’ family was present when the finished turf was unveiled a few weeks ago, Chemaly said.
“His parent had tears in his eyes, his children were there. It’s very, very moving,” Chemaly said. “I’m honored to be apart of it.”
Rourke hopes to have a larger ceremony in the spring to celebrate the dedication of “Rizos Field.”
According to Donoghue, the field will be open for use. She expects some sports programs will use the new field per COVID-19 safety regulations.
Samaras hopes that once the pandemic is over, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will use the new field for playoffs, which will help bring revenue to the city.
Even though the turf is complete, other projects at the stadium are yet to be done.
Items like updating the locker rooms and revitalizing the stands are among the priorities. Donoghue hopes the city can utilize public-private partnerships to help tackle those needs.
“I’m very appreciative to the manager and her team for acting so quickly,” Rourke said. “In the end it’s all about benefit to both the youth and high school athletes in the city.”