HUDSON–A second hearing on the new sports field planned for Hudson High School was called because some district residents wanted to press the Board of Education to choose artificial over natural turf for that field. But attendees at the July 6 hearing raised other concerns, focusing in particular on track facilities.
The hearing took place right before the Hudson City School District Board of Education’s annual organization meeting and Several student athletes attended. “We’re doing this one time,” said a track official in the audience, commenting on the new facilities. “Let’s do it right.”
The meeting began with a presentation by John Sharkey of Rhinebeck Architecture and Jeff Budrow of Weston and Sampson engineering, who had spoken at the first hearing a month earlier, along with James Madison, chief estimator of Arras Contracting. This time Mr. Sharkey told the board it needs to decide on the turf by its July 25 meeting in order to submit a construction application to the state by October and get the new turf installed in the summer of 2017. Mr. Budrow gave a slide show that listed advantages and disadvantages of artificial turf.
“Lots of schools use artificial turf. Let’s get on with it!” former Hudson Mayor Richard Tracey called out confidently from the audience. “I don’t get what the big deal is. What are you waiting for? Hudson has been waiting for it for years!”
But Board member Linda Hopkins raised concerns about artificial turf’s long-term effects related to breathing and the release of chemicals suspecting of causing cancer.
“I’m still undecided,” said Maria McLaughlin, then president of the board. A study of artificial turf by the federal Environmental Protection Agency was “inconclusive,” and the results of a follow-up study are not expected until this winter at the earliest.
“The men’s World Cup has refused to play on artificial turf, because of increased injuries from road rash,” she said.
“I have played football many years, and I can say that more injuries occur on grass,” said Richard Scalera, supervisor from Hudson’s 5th Ward and also a former mayor of Hudson.
Ali Bartolotta, who just graduated from Hudson High School, will attend Marist College on a track scholarship, and her mother told the meeting, “My daughter was recruited by 16 schools for track. And what they liked best about her was her steeplechase.” Yet she had to practice and compete on the tracks of other schools because Hudson High currently has no usable track or steeplechase.
Current plans call for a six-lane track, with eight lanes only in the straightaway, and no steeplechase.
A track coach at the hearing called the design good but insufficient, reminding the board that
the athletic field upgrade plan approved by voters as part of the capital project last winter called for eight lanes and a steeplechase. He said having eight lanes would allow the school to host invitational meets. He also said that Hudson runners excelled at the steeplechase event.
The new field plan has mandatory features and options that can be added at extra cost. Mandatory features include the field surrounded by a six-lane red track, bleachers and a four-foot fence. Optional features include a scoreboard, a press box, a six-foot high fence and making the track blue for the Blue Hawks.
“I can’t believe the score board is an alternate!” said Mr. Scalera. “Shouldn’t it be in the basic design?” he asked, wondering how would spectators know the score without one.
Addressing the $43,000 cost of adding a scoreboard extra to the cost, Mr. Scalera, who works with the Galvan Foundation, inquired, “Would you consider having it sponsored?”
“Absolutely,” answered Superintendent Dr. Maria L. Suttmeier immediately.
The elder Ms. Bartolotta favored the red track over school’s blue. “When the kids are running, they don’t care what color the track is,” said. A red track would be cheaper to install, and its color lasts longer. Track participants also said a four-foot high fence would be sufficient.
Dr. Suttmeier suggested removing the blue track and the six-foot-high fence from the list of options, since everybody seemed to accept the cheaper alternative. But Mr. Madison, the contracting estimator advised retaining those options, saying, “We’ll keep them in, because those are the types of alternates contractors are used to seeing.”
“Hudson’s school system is rising,” said, adding that the new athletic facilities could be “the crown jewel!”