Battle Ensuing Over Filming Adam Sandler Movie On H.S. Football Field

May 3, 2012 / FootballSwimming, Alan Burke

MARBLEHEAD — The plan to film Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups 2” on the high school’s Piper Field got some bad reviews at a meeting with parents last night.

A crowd of about 70 people at the Village School heard Superintendent Gregory Maass outline a plan that would earn the school administration $125,000 in rental fees.

The School Committee would make any final decision, but Maass isn’t sure when that might happen because a final agreement with Columbia Pictures hasn’t been worked out.

The rub here involves extensive damage to the field as the production company would erect a tent over it and build within an in-ground swimming pool, a tennis court and a building. All of this, Maass explained, would be removed in the summer with the field put back as it was, perhaps in time for the football season.

Because the field is in need of repairs, Maass suggested the restoration could be used to upgrade it, a process that might take longer and would be paid for with the rental fee. In any case, it will have to be redone eventually.

“Either way,” he said, “it’s going to disrupt something.”

Maass’ assurances were met with polite skepticism, as some wondered if he couldn’t have gotten more money. Others worried that digging a swimming pool will create long-term problems, with different parts of the field settling at different rates.

Some parents worried the 2012 home football season would be canceled. In a later interview, Maass downplayed that possibility.

“The kids are giving up a ton,” mom Wendy Gillis told the superintendent. “It’s not fair to take that away from those kids,” she said, citing her son. “I’m not willing to give up his junior or senior year playing home games. … I think that’s what’s being lost.”

She got strong support from athletic director Mark Tarmey, who said, “I’m going to be very honest with you. I’m opposed personally to giving up Piper Field.” He cited the 100 spring athletes likely to be displaced, including the lacrosse teams and the 90 football players who might also be without a home field.

“I don’t know where I’m going to find a place for them to play,” he said. “I don’t believe this field is going to be ready no matter what we do.”

Finally, Tarmey said, “That field is a living memorial to Chris Piper.” (The Marblehead native and Green Beret was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.) “I don’t know. Sometimes I get conflicted wondering if we should be doing this on a memorial field.”

“Who is Columbia Pictures to tell us what to do with our football field?” asked football coach Jim Rudloff.

Such misgivings notwithstanding, a consensus exists for taking the money if it could lead to the installation of an artificial turf field. But that would cost as much as $2 million.

Maass, a former athletic director, pronounced himself in favor of a turf field and hinted he knew people who might contribute to providing one. The rental fee, he urged, “Could be seed money.”

“But it ain’t many seeds,” someone quipped.

Complicating all this is the fact that the whole arrangement is something of a moving target. It must be settled soon, as work on the field would have to begin in May.

Meanwhile, Maass explained, the director and star “Adam Sandler is a big part of this. He lives up the road, and he wants to do it here.”

Sandler has already decided he does not want to use the rear of the Veterans Memorial Middle School as a hospital emergency room as previously requested, Maass said.

“The script keeps changing. … It’s all Hollywood,” he said.

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