There are no plans for the largest school district in Dutchess County to install synthetic turf athletic fields.
“We haven’t considered it, and they are not in our capital improvement plans,” Wappingers Central School District board President Ved Shravah said. “It’s a good thing to have, but they are really expensive. I don’t know if the people would want to finance fields at this time. The economy has to get better. We’ll discuss it if things get better.”
District taxpayers rejected a $5.5 million proposition in 2008 to add a synthetic field at each high school. Installation can cost a district about $1 million, and costs rise if a district installs new bleachers, lights and track as well.
“The fields need improvements. It would be nice to see a turf field at each high school,” said district taxpayer Dan Scavino, who is leading an effort with district residents via social media to get turf fields. Scavino is the father of a first-grader and a kindergartner.
Athletes and coaches will use the grass surface to gain an edge while hoping for synthetic turf surfaces.
Roy C. Ketcham field hockey coach Erin Mulligan said turf would be the right choice both for strategic and safety purposes.
“The style of play is so much faster and different on turf than grass,” Mulligan said. “I think turf may be safer for (field hockey) because the ball will not shoot up off the uneven ground (as it does on grass).
“I would like to see turf. With everybody losing jobs, it’s not a priority. It’s putting food on the table. There are opportunities with state grants. If other schools are getting it done, there’s got to be a way to get it done here. I know it was up for a vote five years ago; a portion would have been covered by the state.”
At John Jay, teams use the grass surfaces to their advantage. Football coach Tom O’Hare said they’ve played some “mud bowls,” which put opponents from schools with turf at a disadvantage. John Jay is one of two schools in its league — the other is North Rockland — with a grass surface.
Brian Vigorita, a senior at John Jay who played soccer this fall on a home field with an incline from one side of the field to the other, said he wishes the school had a turf field, but admitted the Patriots used the grass surface to their advantage.
“The John Jay field has dirt spots. Before a rolling ball hits our foot, it can hit something and change direction,” Vigorita said. “Teams have a hard time playing against us when they come from a turf field, and we can use it to our advantage. I would love a turf field. Due to the money, it’s not going to happen.”