Field work to begin at Eastport South Manor High School

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Chronically soggy fields, rocky soil and a lack of dugouts at the Eastport South Manor High School are part of a litany of complaints voiced by school officials and residents alike about the school’s athletic complex.

“That’s been a real problem with our fields,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Nocero said. “The lack of drainage was effectively preventing us from growing grass.”

Now, school officials are doing something about it.

The Eastport South Manor School Board awarded a $2.3 million bid last week to a Syosset contractor to revitalize and improve drainage to the high school’s football, soccer, lacrosse and five baseball fields.

The football field’s grass surface will be replaced with artificial turf, which can resist flooding. The other fields will be dug up and replaced with new soil and grass in order to improve drainage, officials said, and dugouts will be installed at two of the five baseball fields. In addition, the gravel road connecting the high school with Dayton Avenue Elementary School will be paved.

The project is expected to begin in January and have a deadline for completion of April 1, to coincide with the beginning of spring sports—baseball, soccer and lacrosse.

“The current ground condition is that the ground is just very compact,” School Board Vice President Vincent Sweeny said, noting that over the years the district has hired contractors to aerate the fields, but to no avail. “It’s still been very difficult to do that … [and] just for safety reasons and trying to get a handle on the constant maintenance costs, we decided to go out to bid.”

The bid granted at a School Board meeting on December 10 is a part of a larger $5.8 million capital program approved by district residents last December.

The remaining $3.5 million will be used for a second phase of the renovation of the athletic complex. That portion of the project will include installing new lighting, a snack stand, extra parking and an additional tennis court. The second phase of the project is expected to be put out to bid and completed by the end of next year.

School Board member Arthur Abbate said the $5.8 million capital program is 95-percent state funded, with the district using money from its fund balance to pay the remaining 5 percent. Due to a competitive bidding process, the bid the district awarded last week came in about $215,000 under budget, he noted.

“Frankly, weather renders the fields unplayable,” said Mr. Abbate. “The [artificial] turf, from our perspective, was a good investment.”

The Syosset-based contractor, Custom Clay Incorporated, will replace topsoil and reseed the baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse fields. Representatives of Custom Clay and the district’s Hauppauge-based architect, Wiedersum Associates, will be at the School Board’s next meeting on January 7 to go over the project with residents.

“It’s intended to improve drainage and improve the quality of the grass itself,” Mr. Sweeney said.

Eastport South Manor Sports Association President Michael Lieberman hailed the project as a step forward for the district that will “add more value to the school.” Many of the sports association’s 2,000 members rely on the school fields for games and for practice, he said.

“It’s exciting,” Mr. Lieberman said. “It just makes sense. It’s probably something that should have been done initially when the school was built” in 2000.

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