Mamaroneck High School Have Turf Field by Fall 2010

Melany Gray, posted on July 9, 2009 (Larchmont Gazette)

A new, synthetic turf field funded through a public-private partnership could be installed at Mamaroneck High School as early as Labor Day 2010. That was the surprise news at the Mamaroneck School Board’s July 7 meeting, a session typically reserved for routine business.

Another deviation from the routine was the introduction of Joanne Hindley, the new assistant principal for Central School.

Field Work - A Long History

The need for additional playing fields was identified nearly ten years ago, noted board president Linnet Tse in her report from the ad hoc field committee. Efforts to add fields since then have been slowed by the Kemper Park litigation, extensive community debate, environmental reviews and the economic downturn.

The school board included a comprehensive fields proposal, known as Plan C, in the $38 million bond referendum that failed in February.  Priced at $7.7 million, Plan C included work on two MHS fields and one at Central School.

The subsequent $22.1 “bare bones” bond passed in May, but excluded all field work.

After a Failed Bond, Possible Phasing of Field Work

Since then, the field committee, comprised of Ms. Tse and fellow board members Rick Marsico and Robin Nichinsky, have been exploring options for phasing in the field work in stages.

The resulting “Concept Plan C Modified” would cost $1.7 million for a first phase at Memorial Field. It includes reorienting the field and installing synthetic turf. The existing bleachers and a maintenance storage building would be removed and replaced with new storage and much smaller bleachers. Other features are left out, but could be added later. These include lights (although electrical conduits will be laid), the proposed track circling the new field, permanent bleachers with storage and concessions underneath and reconfigured parking.

Ms. Tse explained that the board “wanted to preserve our options for the future.”  By positioning the new field so it can be encircled by a track, the district preserves the ability to move the existing track from Manchester Field, making room for an additional field there.

A Private-Public Partnership for Funding

Several community groups would partner with the district to fund the new field.  And if donations are received by November of this year, the field could be ready by September of 2010, said Meryl Rubinstein, assistant superintendent for business operations.

Jim Hanley, president of Fields for Kids, said his organization would raise a minimum of $400,000 for the effort.  Sid Ings, president of the Larchmont Junior Soccer League, said his board had approved using the $100,000 pledged for the full plan in phase 1 of the modified plan.

Kevin McCarthy, speaking for Larchmont-Mamaroneck Youth Lacrosse, said his board was interested in partnering on the project. He asked if the $450,000 for bleachers and the new maintenance building could be reduced, however. This was something the board agreed should be reconsidered.

Superintendent Paul Fried noted the district needed to consider requirements for a varsity field with spectators. But Mr. Hanley countered that the 175 seat bleachers at the new Flint Park turf field has accommodated crowds for varsity games of soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. Many spectators brought lawn chairs, he said.

Mr. Hanley encouraged the board to make sufficient reductions to get the new field opened for play.  Drawing on the famous quote from Field of Dreams, he said, “If you build it, they will continue to donate.”

What About the Rest of the Money?

The district already has $500,000 in its coffers that was earmarked in for fields work in 2004, under a plan that would have moved the Kemper Memorial.

An additional $250,000 is still available from state funds secured in 2006 by Assemblyman George Latimer.

The $750,000 on hand plus $500,000 committed by private groups - a total of $1,250,000 - leaves the district almost $500,000 short of preliminary estimates for phase 1.

There is no line in the 2009-2010 budget for funding the project, explained Ms. Rubinstein. Although funds could come through a bond or in a subsequent budget,  there was no further discussion of these possibilities. Further, Ms. Tse noted, the board could not participate in any fundraising and would have to assess whether to accept donations.

However, cutting back on the maintenance building and renting temporary bleachers might lower costs and help close the gap. All the board members expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a public-private partnership and the opportunity to move towards increasing field capacity.

Environmental Review and Issues

No additional environmental review would be needed for the modified plan, explained Ms. Rubinstein, because the full fields project had already been reviewed. State review and approval would be needed once financing for the new project was in place.

Ms. Tse reiterated the board’s commitment to using a lead-free product for the synthetic turf. The infill would not be crumb rubber and would not be black.

New information on the safety of synthetic turf is available from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Health and can be found on the school district website.