Southern Lehigh residents want to see action on the field — both literally and figuratively
Nearly 500 residents of the Southern Lehigh School District signed a petition urging board members to pick up the pace to bring a reliable playing field to the district’s football program.
Speaking on behalf of the petitioners Monday night, Upper Saucon Township resident Brian Carr said the late-August discovery that about half the football field didn’t have grass should never have happened.
The field’s condition forced the Spartans to move their first two home games to other stadiums. Southern Lehigh played its first game at home Friday night.
“Look what happened in the past few weeks,” Carr said to the board, referring to the playing field.
“The board needs to do what needs to be done. This board is tasked with delivering a firstrate school system,” he said.
The board did not respond to Carr’s statements, but after the meeting, Carr, the executive vice president and general manager of the Wind Creek Bethlehem casino, said frustration took hold when his son, who plays middle school football, told him his team couldn’t play on the field.
That frustration resulted in the petition, which he said he did on the website change.org.
Other than the athletic field, he said, the district has outstanding academics and other programs, but is lagging in updating facilities.
Carr said he hopes the petition, “We demand you take action to improve the athletic fields,” pushes the board forward with a major renovation project to both the athletic field and stadium and school buildings.
“We deserve a first-rate facility,” he said.
The board started planning for major districtwide renovations in 2018 when KCBA Architects of Hatfield, Montgomery County, released a report outlining the condition of district buildings, needed improvements and the athletic facilities.
Since then, the board has proposed a nearly $50 million improvement project for Liberty Bell Elementary School, the middle school and high school. More than $4 million is marked toward athletic facilities, including $1.3 million for an artificial turf field.
Superintendent Kathleen Evison said after the meeting that projects like this do not start swiftly because they require several steps, including evaluations of buildings, proposals, costs and impact on taxes.
“This has been an ongoing process and we are now selecting people to move it forward,” she said.
She said the next step is expected before the end of the school year.
District Support Services Director Todd Bergey said what happens with the field depends on what the board decides.
The field could be maintained in playing condition for a couple more years, he said.
“If it means 10 years of use, we would have to tear it up [to rebuild the soil for new turf ],” he said. “Right now our goal is to get us through the season.”
While the field has been resurrected with new seed and is in use, he said, a fungus was discovered on the grass blades about two weeks ago, which caused him to quickly seek an examination by turf specialists.
“They came out fast,” Bergey said, and the grass was treated with a fungicide, eliminating the problem and leaving the field in playable condition.
The Southern Lehigh High School football field was restored from an unplayable condition.