Sam Bernstein staff writer
Natasha Dardashti multimedia editor
With concern coming from both staff and athletes, the turf on the Nickoll Field has been a subject of major discourse lately. The turf is over eight years old, and it has been up for debate with the Board of Education. While some say that the turf must undergo immediate renovation, others say that it can wait for replacement.
“In the last two years, it’s gotten more serious than any year previous to that. That’s because the grass blades themselves have worn off. Everyone is just becoming more aware of it,” athletic trainer Coleen Davenport said.
Coaches are calling for change. Baseball coach Gregg Reisenberg is unsure of whether it is safe to play on the field, and therefore may relocate all home games.
“[The baseball team] is not sure if they’re gonna play any games at [home] because they’re not sure how the field is going to play due to potholes in the field,” Reisenberg said.
Still, the potential degree of wear the field has sustained has caused disagreement among the administration. According to Superintendent Steven Kessler, two experts have deemed the field usable and safe despite complaints from staff.
“Last year, we actually had two [top-notch] experts who did testing on that field. They said, ‘Yes, that field is worn, but it’s not to the point where you have to remove it.’ Kids are not susceptible to danger playing on that field, as long as you recondition that field,” Kessler said.
Despite its age, Kessler wants to be sure that the field is still usable. He recognizes the age of the turf may make it difficult to play on; however, the district does take precautions to keep the turf functional.
“What happens is that we have a contract with the company. They come out, they kind of level it, they add more of those little balls and make it all fluffy. But there is no doubt that that field is old, there is no doubt about it,” Kessler said.
However, Davenport provided her own information to prove the field simply needs to be replaced.
“In physics, as fast as the body was travelling towards the surface, there is rebound of that much pressure back up towards the body. It is a much harder surface than when it was originally installed. That is a natural byproduct of it getting older,” Davenport said.
Davenport added that as a result of old age, the field quality deteriorates to the point where athletes are at an absolute risk of injury.
“When you fall on [the turf], instead of falling on it soft and smooth, you’re falling on hard compacted items. It’s going to result in more skin abrasions, it’s going to result in more bone bruising and joint soreness because there’s no way that [the turf] can absorb pressure and shock anymore,” Davenport said
Along with the risk of injury from simply falling onto the turf, students face potential heat induced injury due to the black beads’ absorption of heat from the sun. According to Davenport, this could affect the athletes’ practice.
“In practice, it is absolutely [affecting the way they play]. They are more hesitant to dive after a ball or to tackle in football because they know that it’s going to result in a turf burn,” Davenport said. “They do change how they behave because of the quality, or deteriorating quality of that turf.”
Athletic Director Kevin Brown gave a definitive answer on the intentions of the district regarding the field.
“We’ve discussed the safety of the field several times this year. Myself, the administration, and the coaches. Our goal is to eventually fix the field and upgrade it. I just don’t have the time to,” Brown said.
Kessler also noted what he thinks the board’s opinions on the field are.
“The Board does know that eminently that thing does need to be replaced. Is it to that point right now? No, it’s not,” Kessler said.
Principal David Jackson believes that there is one key point that defines whether the district should replace the field or not. He hopes that there will be firm discussion on the turf condition by the end of January.
“There’s no question that the turf field needs to be replaced. When they put [the turf] in they said it would probably have a life of about eight years, and it’s over eight years,” Jackson said. “I know they’re working on it and the coaching staff, the administrators and teachers are all pushing that we have that turf field replaced as soon as possible.”