Just as Holderness School nears completion on its new 35,000 square-foot math and science building this spring, the school is set to embark on a series of transformative upgrades to its Nordic trails and athletic fields.
These major projects are moving forward, in large part, thanks to an anonymous $6 million gift directed at the school’s athletics programs. That gift has jumpstarted several major projects over the last year, including the construction of an on-campus freeski air bag jump and the Mittersill Performance Center at Cannon Mountain. That generous gift should translate to a busy summer of construction on campus.
“It’s a very ambitious, very busy time. It’s exciting,” says Chief Operating Officer Margot Riley, who is managing the projects along with Director of Facilities Tony LeMenager. “It’s fun, but it’s a lot.”
Here’s a look at the on-campus projects we can look forward to over the next several months.
Phase One: Turf Field Replacement & Lighting
The first big project scheduled for this summer is the replacement of the Robert T. Low Turf Field. This project will also include the installation of lights for night games. Construction is set to begin in early June, and should be completed by the start of the 2021-22 school year. That means athletes on the soccer and field hockey teams will be playing on brand-new turf next fall, with new lights making night games possible every weekend.
Phase Two: Nordic Homologation and Snowmaking
How does a school host championship-level Nordic races in a climate where winter temperatures and natural snowfall are becoming more variable? That’s the question Holderness School seeks to answer with its plan to homologate several competition loops and install snowmaking along a key portion of its trail system.
If state permits are approved this spring, five world-class homologated race loops will be added to the school’s trail network by November, including a short course, long course, a lighted 2.5-kilometer loop, and two spurs off the 2.5 kilometer loop. Only five percent of the homologation project will involve cutting new trails through the forest, while most of the loops will follow existing trails.
By homologating those trails (a process that involves widening and grading the trails to conform to standards set by the International Ski Federation) Holderness will be able to host major events like the Junior National Championships and college carnival races. These new, relatively short homologated loops will also make spectating more exciting, since athletes will pass through the start/finish area several times during their races.
Snowmaking is the second major component of the Nordic upgrades. Plans call for the installation of 2.5 kilometers of snowmaking along the main, lighted competition loop – as well as the construction of a 3-million-gallon snowmaking pond across from the biomass plant on Mt. Prospect Road. This new snowmaking system will ensure consistent conditions all winter long -- a game-changing upgrade for the Holderness skiers and community members who use the trails. Instead of being totally dependent on natural snow, a few cold nights should be enough for the snowmaking system to produce a durable base that will stand up to New England’s unpredictable weather and last all season.“To have consistent skiing in New England from November until March is just sort of going the way of the dodo,” Mr. Casey says. “I think we’ll see numbers uptick in the sport which is huge, getting more people outside, skiing. That’s going to be a legacy that will definitely thrive because of this project.”
Phase Three: New Athletics Fields
If you’ve driven up Mt. Prospect Road from campus, you’ve probably noticed a large new clearing just to the east of the biomass plant. This will be the site of our new athletics complex, which will include a turf field, natural field, softball field, support building, and paved parking lot.
While trees were felled on the property this winter, fundraising for the project continues and no firm construction dates have been set. Site prep work is expected to continue this summer, however, with material dug from the new snowmaking pond across the street to be used as a base material for the new fields. Construction of the new turf field could begin as soon as the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. “We don’t have a start date yet, but we’re very hopeful it can start as early as this fall,” says Director of Facilities Tony LeMenager.
This first phase of construction, in addition to the building of a new turf field, will include the construction of a lit, paved path to the new fields. Work on the natural field, softball field, and surrounding infrastructure will take place in subsequent seasons, guaranteeing a busy few years ahead for Mr. LeMenager and Ms. Riley.
“To me, that’s personally exciting – and it’s so heartening that there are people willing to support the school in fundraising to do things like this,” Ms. Riley says. "These are transformative projects.”