BOE Considers Bond To Fund Turf Field, Lights At WHS
Board will vote on $3.3 million bond at May 15 meeting.
Construction costs for the field would total $3.3 million, according to a presentation given by supervisor of athletics Sandy Mamary at last night’s Board meeting. The total would include all fees, landscaping and storage as well as the construction of minimal spillage lighting, bleachers and a batting cage. The Board will decide at its May 15 meeting whether to adopt the bond proposal.
The field would be the district’s response to an increasing amount of participation in athletics, a trend that will presumably only continue given the expected student population bump. Mamary said the facility would increase capacity for athletic and physical education activity, allow for repeated field use without damaging the grounds, and alleviate what has become a nightmare scheduling situation.
“It’s been a long time and the need has existed,” BOE president Richard Mattesich said.
Jane Clancy, chair of the Facilities Committe, said the Board has looked into the possibility of adding another turf field since a 2008 study revealed that the district's athletic fields were in poor condition. A turf field was recommended by the committee in 2010, but the district was not ready to explore its financial options at that time.
Mamary highlighted the need for the field by providing data on the rapid increase in overall student enrollment as well as student participation in various athletics programs. Between 2002 and 2012, participation in the Westfield Soccer Association increased by 74 percent. During the same time period, the number of participants in the Westfield Lacrosse Club grew by 127 percent. Westfield High School’s participation rose by 31 percent.
The benefits of a turf field include easing field scheduling, minimizing maintenance costs, decreasing injuries and gaining an estimated 40 hours of field usage each week, Mamary said.
The high school location offers “the best bang for the buck” and provides a number of advantages that others do not, Mamary said. The high school could accommodate one regulation size field, two developmental fields and two softball/baseball fields. She also said installing the turf field at the high school would reduce after-school traffic by keeping more athletes on-site and the lighting capability would extend possible hours of activity. In addition to day-to-day benefits, Mamary said the field would serve as an attractive venue for tournaments and would open up a greater opportunity for outdoor graduation ceremonies.
The Facilities Committee considered a number of other areas for a potential turf field, including sites at Edison, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Tamaques Schools. However, each of the school sites presented problems that made those alternatives less optimal than the high school location. For example, a field at Edison would have been the most costly option due to the larger area of synthetic turf that would be required. Roosevelt would not be able to accommodate a regulation field. Jefferson would present limited options for multi-purpose use. Additionally, most of the intermediate and elementary school facilities would not provide the access to parking, locker rooms and restrooms that the high school can.
The high school field is currently used for gym classes, softball, freshman field hockey and graduation. The turf field is projected to be used by girls and boys high school soccer, girls and boys high school lacrosse, four levels of field hockey and softball, the marching band and several other Westfield sport clubs and leagues. The field would be able to accommodate three gym classes per period, allow for more diverse physical education activities and make it easier to hold class outdoors more months of the year.
Mamary said the life expectancy of a new turf field would be about 20 years. The warranty on such a field would probably be seven years, according to district architect George Duthie.
Vincent Yaniro, the Board’s interim Business Administrator, said the estimated annual cost per household over the duration of the 20-year bond would be about $21.
Public feedback on the proposal was generally positive, with many local athletics groups expressing their frustrations with current scheduling conflicts and their desire for a field that would be comparable to facilities available in other local districts. Other members of the public voiced concerns about potential parking issues.