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High School’s Aged Turf Field Hanging on For Dear Life

Andy Berg

Westfield (N.J.) High School is hoping to wring another five months out of its 13-year-old turf field before it's scheduled to be resurfaced. 

According to TapInto.Net, the turf field at Gary Kehler Stadium will be resurfaced as part of $3.03 million renovation set to begin in April. School officials have done everything possible to ensure the field is safe for play after having already made repairs to the surface over the summer. 

“We had the field and track inspected and made repairs to both this summer after we knew the project would be delayed,” said school business administrator Dana Sullivan. “We are doing this project because both the field and track are at the end of their useful life.”

Part of the problem arose after the school hired a third-party engineering firm to examine the field. The firm, PMK Group, found “elevated lead-containing materials” in May of 2008 in one of four samples taken from the field and advised the school to limit the use of the field in accordance with state Department of Health and Human Services procedures.

The firm issued the following recommendations for Westfield:

  • Suppress dust on the field by wetting down the surface before and after use by any individual.
  • Encourage individuals using the fields to perform aggressive hand/body washing after playing on the field and remove the clothes that are worn on the field by taking them off inside out and washing them separately.
  • Maintain the field in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Supervisor of athletics Sandra Mamary said that while the field is old, it is safe for play. “If there was a reason for concern, we wouldn’t be here,” Mamary said. “I’m being honest. It’s not as bad as people are making it out to be, and I keep trying to tell people that. ... Of course, everything wears down, but it’s not worn out, or you wouldn’t be on it.”

The school has also conducted impact testing on the field and had it professionally raked.

“There are not any apparent safety issues associated with the field,” said William Edwards, of Edwards Engineering Group Inc., in his report to the school district then. “The slightly deeper than normal infill mix may result in a slower field under foot, due to its increased sponginess. This field should be serviceable for another season.” 

Mamary said that overall the school has been very pleased with the field. “It has performed above and beyond what the manufacturer said,” she said. “Our maintenance department takes care of it. We get it tested and make sure to get that other company to come in. Everything that we can do and should be doing, we do.”

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