Field of broken dreams
Spartans football team loses home stadium to turf troubles
Riley Craft has been waiting eight years to play his senior year of football on his home field at Southern Lehigh High School.
Craft has been playing football since the fourth grade and going to nearly every Spartans home game, and the field, he says, has the best atmosphere of any stadium, often attended by 1,500 to 2,000 spectators.
“It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to run out on that field every home game,” he said.
But this year, the Spartans — football players, cheerleaders and band members — may not have a chance to play on their home turf. With the season about to get underway Friday, Southern Lehigh’s field is too damaged to play on, and the first two home games have been moved to other school districts.
District officials hope the field will be playable for home games later in the season.
The problems worsened with heat in late July, resulting in “the need for drastic measures,” according to a statement on the district’s website.
A landscaping company has been reseeding, composting and aerating the field. The district is also having the soil tested to determine the source of the problem, said Todd Bergey, the district’s director of support
“The district is doing everything we can,” he said.
The Spartans’ first “home” game against Palmerton on Aug. 30 will be played at Palmerton, and the Sept. 6 game against Notre Dame-Green Pond will be played at Quakertown High School, officials said in an email.
Transportation to the games will be provided to the student body, the email said. .
Bergey said that the total cost of remediation has yet to be determined, and whether the field is playable later in the season boils down to many factors, including weather.
For about a year, school board members have been talking about a $50 million proposal to renovate and improve the district’s buildings. The package of projects includes athletic field improvements and a stormwater drainage system for the stadium. Bergey said discussions have concerned changing to an artificial turf field.
The board has yet to approve the projects.
Craft and his teammates said it was clear the football field had problems even before this summer.
Last year, the field was deteriorating, getting ripped up and muddy in ways it hadn’t in the past, they said. The grass is too thin, making it harder to plant your foot and run, Craft said.
He doesn’t think the district did enough to maintain and restore the field in the last year.
“The fact they’ve ignored the problem that’s been here for over a year is kind of ridiculous,” he said. “We don’t see how it’s fair they didn’t take care of that field.”
Bergey said the district has maintained the field the same way for many years and works in conjunction with landscaping professionals.
Last year’s rain may have taken a toll on the field, but it was still playable, he said.
Football captain and senior Cam Fisher said team morale hasn’t taken much of a hit.
“Obviously, as seniors we’re kind of bummed about it because we want to have that home-field advantage, but it doesn’t really matter where we play. We’re going to get on the field and get the job done,” he said.
Southern Lehigh High School’s football field is too damaged to play on. The problems worsened with heat in late July.
Riley Craft (55) had hoped to finish his career on the Spartans’ turf.
Southern Lehigh's football field is seen on Tuesday.