Coaches weigh in on field conditions

Head football coach Chuck Tinninis explained how field conditions affected his program and could result in a PIAA ruling that Kaley Field was off limits for competition.

Athletic director Vicki Ritchey spoke to the Greencastle-Antrim school board and a room full of citizens March 17 on the condition of the athletic fields at the school complex.

Initially cinder, an all-weather six lane track was installed in 1998 and had issues immediately. Routine maintenance did not take place and in 2005 it should have been resealed, but the previous school board had chosen to spend the money elsewhere, Ritchey said.

“We’re left with substantial problem areas.”

The track was heavily used, both by secondary wellness students, athletes and the public. That included 400 students daily when they went outdoors for class, 175 kids involved in spring sports, and citizens who could utililize the facilities day or night, she added.

The coaches

Head track coach Devin McCauley pointed out areas of concern. Divets in the long jump runway exposed the concrete base. Water from recent rains sat near the high jump pits. The track itself had holes and multiple places where the surface had been patched. That all meant the school could not host any home meets this year.

“It’s a big deal,” McCauley said. “My 95 athletes can’t compete at home. That’s where they perform the best.”

Noting that perhaps thousands of residents used the track for various purposes during the year, he wanted it to remain a resource everyone could be proud of.

Field hockey head coach Jen Everetts expressed concern for the dangers her players faced. The program was at a higher playing level, equipment was more advanced, but safety was at stake.

“It’s absolutely necessary to play on a smooth, well-maintained surface,” she stated.

Because of the hard and bumpy ground, the team practiced on a space smaller than regulation size. During home games the other teams were warned of the real risk of balls bouncing errantly to hit the girls in the face.

Ritchey said the district had tried in vain to bring the fields up to par, with overseeding, aerating and some rest for the grass. It still lost the fields and the money invested. She emphasized the fields were overused but there was no alternative.

The football field was also in poor shape, Ritchey continued. Midget football had moved to another site, so the district lost $700 in revenue for every home game. The Chambersburg Cardinals couldn’t rent the field for its adult minor league football games due to the condition but would have been willing to pay up to $1,500 per game.

Head coach and wellness teacher Chuck Tinninis shared his position on the issue, which has become controversial in the community. “I’m not a real flashy guy. I thought other districts were showing off when they got turf. Now I believe we need this field.”

It would be a “front end investment,” since the money spent annually treating grass wasn’t working. He believed the high number of students ill with respiratory conditions this year was related to the dust from the dry fields.

He was also afraid taxes would go up if turf was not installed. “If a kid gets hurt, we’ll lose the lawsuit.”

As far as soccer was concerned, Ritchey said the clumps of grass wouldn’t allow painted lines to last, so it had to be reapplied often during the games.

“Our fields are the worst in the Mid-Penn Conference and among the worst in PIAA District 3. One official can ban the fields. That will be a travesty,” she concluded.

The entire sports program costs the district $450,000 per year. Revenue from the fall and winter brought in $71,000 through player activity fees and gate receipts. No price for turf had yet been obtained, but business manager Richard Lipella said there would be no  labor savings with either surface.

The fields are used annually by the public for Relay for Life, graduation, special fun runs and fundraisers, the band Autumn Festival, and other events. Eleven schools in the Mid-Penn Conference have artificial turf.

The citizens

Field hockey parent Kim Murray spoke after the presentation. “Comparing costs to benefits, it may not be as expensive as everybody thinks.”

She encouraged the board to treat the school as a business, and find cuts across all programs in order to adequately fund athletics. “Academics is not the only service a school provides.”

Football parent Dave Spencer said the situation had changed from a want to a need, from a luxury to a necessity, and he supported improved fields.

Another woman in the audience favored the project, stating it was time.

Resident Gerald Lute advocated a capital campaign to raise the funds for synthetic turf, or to obtain an old fire truck to pump water onto the grass fields.

Two board members expressed opposition to turf. Brian Hissong said if a capital campaign didn’t take off through community efforts, the board would have to come up with a solution. He agreed there was value to athletics for students, but was willing to take a risk that there could be a period with no home games if the fields weren’t fixed by fall.

Eric Holtzman supported repairing the track but not Kaley Field. Eventually the field would have turf, he predicted, but not now since citizens didn’t seem to want it. He believed there was a way to get water to the fields.