Field of bro­ken dreams

Spar­tans foot­ball team loses home sta­dium to turf trou­bles

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - BY MICHELLE MER­LIN

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

ser­vices.

“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.

APRIL GAMIZ/THE MORN­ING CALL

South­ern Le­high High School’s foot­ball field is too dam­aged to play on. The prob­lems wors­ened with heat in late July.

DAVID GARRETT/MORN­ING CALL FILE PHOTO

Ri­ley Craft (55) had hoped to fin­ish his career on the Spar­tans’ turf.

APRIL GAMIZ/THE MORN­ING CALL

South­ern Le­high's foot­ball field is seen on Tues­day.

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