Hudson athletic field plans hint at turf battles ahead

HUDSON–The school district plans to reconstruct its athletic facilities and the school board heard details last week of a proposal for the new high school field.

In the proposal are a new football and soccer field, surrounded by a 400-meter track, with a zone at each end set up for jumping. There would also be a space off to the side for additional field events, bleachers for 300 people, access for wheelchairs lighting for nighttime events. The track would have six lanes, with an eight-lane straightaway.

Softball and baseball fields would stay where they are. The concession stand and restrooms would use existing facilities.

Jeff Budrow, an engineer with Weston and Sampson, presented the design at the June 6 meeting, backed up by John Sharkey of Rhinebeck Architecture, which has overall responsibility for designing the district’s recently approved capital project.

Jack Conner, the girls’ track coach, said “the plans are good. But we really need eight lanes all the way around,” not just for straightaways.”

“Why was the decision made for six rather than eight lanes?” asked Board of Education President Maria McLaughlin.

“Consultation with the Athletic Department,” Mr. Budrow said.

Mr. Conner said that the track facilities need to be designed for a steeplechase, and that the space for long and triple jumps had to be longer.

“The high jump is important, but we don’t want jumpers landing on the track,” added Vincent Gagliano, the boys’ track coach.

In addition, the track coaches stressed the importance of orienting the pole vault so “kids [aren’t] running into the sun. They won’t be able to see.”

The sun also concerned others at the meeting. “It seems that in the bleachers, sun will always be in the eyes,” said school board member Sage Marie Carter, looking at a rendering of the new field.

“We oriented the field optimally for cost,” explained Mr. Budrow. Setting the bleachers at a different angle could require expensive earth moving. “And remember, most of your games will be at night.”

“There aren’t a lot of soccer games at night,” said a man in the audience. “Can you reorient the field?”

Mr. Sharkey said that setting the bleachers at a different angle could require expensive earth moving.

Mr. Budrow projected two images of a new; in one the track surface was red, in the other it was blue.

The red track surface is the “most effective,” the cheapest to use, and “lasts the longest,” he explained. “But some schools like their track to be the school color.”

Board member Carrie Otty asked how long a blue track would last. Mr. Budrow answered that within 10 years, the sun’s ultraviolet rays could turn the blue to a greenish color. “What would you do if you wanted to change it back to blue?” asked Ms. Otty. “Recolor it,” answered Mr. Budrow.

Some people still want natural turf, Mr. Budrow acknowledged, but in the past 10 years, “I have done about 12 artificial turfs and gotten no complaint.”

Artificial turf would be more expensive to install but less expensive to maintain, though it would wear out and need replacing in about 15 years. Audience comments concerned drainage, appearance, durability, injuries and toxins.

“Silt and clay fields in the Hudson Valley don’t drain well,” said Mr. Budrow. “With a natural turf field, we have to build catch basins. But artificial turf has a highly permeable backing built over a stone base. Water gets off the top so fast that you can play on the field two hours after a big deluge.”

Not bound by color, artificial turf can include logos, and the field in the image projected at the meeting was imprinted with a picture of a large blue hawk. In addition, said Mr. Budrow, natural turf fields need restriping every few weeks. Artificial turf can have permanent lines sewn into it for major sports, like football. Other sports will still need their lines painted in during their season. A field covered with stripes for “too many” different games at the same time “can be confusing,” he said.

Mr. Budrow said that artificial turf was engineered to reduce the chance of concussion. But Ms. McLaughlin said her sources say it “is most effective in reducing concussions where the ground is hard and dry. But this area doesn’t have that problem. It’s too wet.”

In addition, “There have been news reports about cancer-causing agents in Astroturf,” said Ms. Otty.

Today’s artificial turf has a chemistry different from the original Astroturf, Mr. Budrow replied. Nevertheless, “six or eight years ago, the state put a moratorium on installing more artificial turf, while they did a study. The results were inconclusive,” and the installation of artificial turf resumed, he said.

“A lot of the studies that have been done are funded by Monsanto, which makes artificial turf” Ms. McLaughlin said. “So we don’t know how objective they are.”

“I hear the EPA is doing a new study,” Mr. Budrow said. “We could use a different material,” such as ground-up coconut, “but that would cost more.” In any case, he declared, “The benefit of being able to have lots of kids on the field in all seasons of the year all hours of the day outweighs health concerns!”

“Natural turf will look great in the first year, but then look at the artificial turf with our logo.” added a man in the audience. “Artificial turf gives such a psychological boost to the whole community. There’s no comparison!”

Another member of the audience said that a “reduction in the amount of chemicals used in school areas” has reduced the cost of maintaining natural turf. It would also reduce toxins from chemical lawn maintenance.

Issues surrounding the athletic field will continue to develop in the coming months.

 

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