Artificial Turf & Real Money

For those who have been in hibernation this winter, field renovation is the "big to-do" in the Rivertowns. This December, Irvington narrowly voted down a proposed $4.85 million bond that would have replaced the high school football field with artificial turf, installed outdoor lighting fixtures, and included various other projects.

Just about one month later, the Sleepy Hollow School Board has asked its residents to voice their opinions on a similar plan to restructure the Sleepy Hollow High School and Washington Irving fields. With the Irvington bond being rejected over a month ago and two Sleepy Hollow schools already amidst a near $74 million renovation, many question whether the proposed changes are necessary and timely or if they should be left on the sidelines.

With any big renovation, the usual initial response is, "How much is this going to cost?" For artificial turf and lights on the Sleepy Hollow Middle School/ High School field the approximate cost is $1.6 million. Artificial turf on Washington Irving lower field would be $1.5 million and $466,000 for the upper. Natural turf for the upper field would be around $75,000. The School Board states, "The estimated tax impact for all three fields for the average tax payer would be $30 for the first year and an additional $60 for years 2-10. Estimated debt service over ten years is approximately $420,000 per year." Although these are the current estimates, the numbers could look entirely different when work actually begins. One only has to refer to the original High School building renovation budget that started at $45.1 million and ended up at $56.7 by July 2006. The possibility of approving an approximate $3.5 million bond for renovating all three fields could result in the renovation of only one field if the project goes over budget. Would a supplemental bond be voted on then? If so, will the voters’ trust be shattered after another project fails to meet expectations?

In a "Special Edition" of the School Board’s Tarrytowns News and Views, it is stated, concerning the renovation of all three fields, "We are not proposing to complete all the work quoted…just some options to consider." Unlike the Irvington bond, the Board is stating that it doesn’t have to be that all fields are renovated, or none at all, but that any number of combinations can be taken into account. However, if there is such a need and all these fields are in such a state of disrepair, then why not get everything done at once?

The schools, organizations such as TNT, AYSO, and Wolfpack football, the Tarrytown Recreation Department, and the community in general all rely on the use of these fields. It is understandable that the community would want fields that could withstand constant use, and rather than wait for further deterioration and the price of inflation, just fix them all at one time. However, if the fields could be allowed to "rest," then it is possible for them to recover from overuse. According to the Board of Education in the Tarrytowns News and Views, "There is a shortage of fields in our community…fields cannot be taken out of service, or ‘rested,’ to recover from overuse."

Peabody field, in the past, has been used for AYSO soccer and Sleepy Hollow field hockey practices. Community members are often found playing soccer, hitting golf balls, and using it for various activities. Franklin field and Losee fields are utilized by AYSO. TNT baseball has been able to use Devries field, Quattro field, Losee fields, and Pennybridge field for practices and games. Pennybridge has also hosted AYSO soccer games. Kingsland Point Park has a field that community members use to play soccer and football and provides an adequate practice area. With all these available fields, is it possible to "rest" at least the Washington Irving fields and decrease the practice load on Sleepy Hollow Middle School and High School’s football field?

As of now, nothing has been set in stone but it is obvious that there are those in the community that feel field availability and conditions remain inadequate; whether an adequate solution is found remains to be seen. Regardless, in the dead of winter another major issue has appeared for the first time. A logical question could be asked of the School Board and the Tarrytown Board of Trustees. Where has this issue been all this time?

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About the Author: David Jacobsen Jr.