"Friends of Pelham Sports" Formed, With Turf Field One of Its Goals

"Friends of Pelham Sports" Formed, With Turf Field One of Its Goals

The Pelham Weekly, March 5, 2010


Citing “increasing fiscal pressures on state, local and School Board budgets,” Pelham residents representing a wide cross-section of the community have formed a new organization named “Friends of Pelham Sports” to raise money privately to improve sports and recreational facilities in the Town of Pelham. One of the group’s goals is to fund the construction of the first turf field in the community, ideally at the Glover Field complex.

Formation of the new group was announced this week. It was emphasized that a turf field is not the only project the group would fund through a nonprofit it is organizing in order to accept tax deductible donations.

In 2008, Pelham voters defeated a bond referendum proposing that taxpayers fund two turf fields. At the time, opponents of the turf field proposal cited health and safety reasons, the cost ($2,745,000) of the project and its continued maintenance as well as the estimated 7-10 years it could be used before having to be replaced. Proponents cited how turf fields would result in fewer rainouts and lead to improved scheduling of school and town sports programs using the fields. Since that vote, there have been dozens of turf fields installed in surrounding communities and several studies endorsing the safety of such fields.

Any funds raised for a turf field or any other sports project by “Friends of Pelham Sports” would have to be accepted in a vote by the Pelham Board of Education, just as are donations from the Pelham Education Foundation, PTAs or other groups. The Board of Education oversees most of the athletic field space in Pelham for school athletic programs. Additionally, town government administers community recreation programs that use the fields.

Tim Cassidy, president of “Friends of Pelham Sports,” said, “With increasing fiscal pressures on state, local and School Board budgets, there is a need for an organization that can raise money privately to support improvements to our recreational programs and facilities.” Mr. Cassidy, who grew up in Pelham, has lived with his wife, Carolyn, in Pelham for more than 17 years. They are the parents of children who have been active in lacrosse, football, soccer, basketball and field hockey.

“We intend to raise this money privately,” said Tom Walsh, a Board member. “This turf field will be the first of many projects. We can fix baseball diamonds, tennis courts; create walking trails, and more. We can change our community for the better.”

Dennis Roche, vice president of the group, said research has been done over the last few months to determine the best way to proceed with “Friends of Pelham Sports.”

“We have studied and modeled the organization on other groups in the immediate region that have successfully raised needed funds to support sports and recreational activities for the youth of their communities,” he said. Mr. Roche and his wife, Julie, have lived in Pelham for more than a decade and have four sons who are active in soccer, basketball and baseball.

According to Vinny Mazzaro, the group’s treasurer, “one of the first things you notice when you travel to recreational events in surrounding towns is that other local communities are providing their youth with superior recreation facilities, particularly for high school sports.” Mr. Mazzaro and his wife, Cathy, have lived in Pelham for 16 years and have five children who have played baseball, lacrosse, hockey and soccer.

“Glover is a wonderful facility that suffers tremendous use throughout much of the year,” Mr. Mazzaro said. “We hope the entire community of Pelham will embrace our efforts to make it even better so it will reflect the quality of our community and our dedication to our youth.”

While turfing Glover field is a high priority for the group, the organization’s goal is to be a long-term presence in the community and to fund important improvements for the foreseeable future. To that end, the group’s sevenmember volunteer Board is forming an Advisory Committee that already has nearly three dozen members representing organizations and programs throughout Pelham. It also is widening its reach to all who are interested or want to help.

Following months of study, planning and preparation by the Board, the Advisory Committee held an organizational meeting on Feb. 28 at Daronco Town House. Some 30 people attended the meeting.

“Pelham is a wonderful community to live in; we think the opportunities for our children should reflect that,” said Kristin Barsanti, the group’s Community Relations Director. She and her husband, Peter, have three children who play soccer, football and baseball in Pelham.

The founders of “Friends of Pelham Sports” believe that its challenges go beyond raising money privately. “We already have assembled a large group, members of which have begun informal conversations with a variety of public officials to emphasize how important we consider this initiative to be,” said Blake Bell, the group’s secretary. He and his wife, Janice Ingram, have lived in Pelham for more than a decade and have two children who play baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse. “We need the help of many of our elected officials to make this happen for the benefit of the Town and its young people.”

Tom Walsh, another member of the Board, and his wife, Nancy, have lived in Pelham for nine years. They have three children who have played baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer and basketball. Board member Dwight Fairback and his wife, Kristen, moved to Pelham in 2008 and have a son who plays football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse and baseball.

The “Friends of Peham Sports” announcement also said: “In the short time since that vote (defeating the turf field proposal), there have been dozens of turf fields installed in surrounding communities and several major studies endorsing the safety of such fields. Indeed, with turf fields in Yonkers, New Rochelle, Bronxville, Eastchester, Harrison, Scarsdale, the Bronx and, soon to be unveiled, in Mt. Vernon, Pelham now stands out—for the wrong reasons. Despite the Herculean efforts of many to maintain and repair the unavoidable damage suffered by Pelham playing fields subjected to inordinately heavy use throughout the year, Friends of Pelham Sports believes that more can be done with the right initiatives and broad cooperation. Friends of Pelham Sports is working hard to help.”