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With the vote to approve Field Concept B last week, the high school football team will trade turf for turf on the stadium field.
The Board of Education (BOE)-approved plan substitutes an artificial turf surface for the natural turf one that now lies within the high school track oval. The new synthetic surface field will be installed this summer and ready for football game play by the middle of September.
Before the vote, Luke McCoy, the project manager from BSC Group, presented to the BOE the array of concepts the BOE Building Committee had weighed and explained why all but Concept B had deficiencies. With some, a field would be lost. In others, the construction costs would exceed the town-approved budget. With still others, site constraints prevented the concept from being workable.
And while Concept B, at $1.6 million, would not add an athletic field, it maintains the number of playable high school flat fields at three-the football practice field, the field hockey field, and the new artificial turf stadium field inside the track. Additionally, an area to the north of the track could accommodate a future athletic field, should the town decide to build one.
McCoy told the BOE that Concept B, because of its location on the existing field site, would have the least number of unforeseen conditions. That's important because it means more of the 10 percent project contingency allowance would be preserved to pay for project alternates. Among those alternates for example would be to install an irrigation system for the two remaining natural grass fields.
At the last Building Committee meeting, McCoy had told the group that building a fourth natural turf field on land to the north of the track would cost about $250,000. Half of that future field's footprint is already flat but the other half-the northern half-is at a different elevation. Rock would need to be blasted to create a level surface for the field. So while construction of a future field in that site is feasible, its cost was not within this athletic project's budget.
Not everyone on the board favored Concept B over the other concepts, however. Before the vote, BOE member Vito Savino voiced his concerns.
"I'm not fond of this [concept]. Parents were looking for more playable fields. I think to take [for this project] the one field that is our best field-I think we're going to have problems with all of the entities that want to play here. 'Concept I' provides another playable field. I'm not interested in the bleachers, not interested in the lights."
To respond to Vito's concern, Turf, Track, and Tennis (Triple T) Building Committee member Todd Hartt said, "We'll still be deficient in fields, but the new field can help. I think [Concept B] is the best first step."
Committee member and town resident Mike Pitruzzello (also the athletic director at Middletown High School) added that in his experience, good scheduling of the artificial turf field would actually help preserve the quality and playability of the high school's remaining grass fields. Speaking of how he schedules team practices, Pitruzzello said, "Teams are never on the grass fields during the rain."
He then recounted how letting the high school lacrosse team's practice on a wet field in the early spring in just one week had ruined the natural grass field for a year. On rainy days or days when the fields are wet, practices must be held indoors or adjusted so that all team practices can be scheduled for the artificial turf field.
"You can get three sets of practices per day on the [artificial] turf field," said Pitruzzello.
He also told the BOE that if the topsoil now on the football field were removed and then spread over the other two natural turf fields, the new top soil would enrich and improve them. And adding irrigation to those two grass fields would improve their playability significantly.
After the board voted for Concept B, McCoy confirmed that his firm would now begin the design development phase. He suggested that the new artificial turf field would be ready for play by the middle of September.