South­ern Le­high res­i­dents want to see ac­tion on the field — both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Charles Mal­in­chak Charles Mal­in­chak is a free­lance writer for The Morn­ing Call.

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.

RICK KINTZEL/THE MORN­ING CALL

The South­ern Le­high High School foot­ball field was re­stored from an un­playable con­di­tion.

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