A $1.2-million, privately financed effort would install lighting and artificial turf to remake Ridgefield High School’s practice football field as an all-weather playing surface that could be used by five sports.
“We have a good portion of the funds committed at this time — not fully raised but close enough to warrant moving to town for permits,” said Tom Galione, chairman of the Tiger Hollow Committee, the private group that built Ridgefield High School’s main stadium over a decade ago and has been improving the facility since then.
Fund raising received a boost from a proposal to name the field after Guido Maiolo, who coached Ridgefield High School’s football team through the 1980s, leading the Tigers through a period of sustained success including the 1983 state championship.
Christine Hughes, a former cheerleader whose brother played quarterback under Coach Maiolo, came up with idea while working as a member of the fund-raising committee for the field project at the same time she was helping organize her class reunion.
Coach Maiolo “changed the landscape of Ridgefield by inspiring a team of champions and its supporting programs to became worthy of our community,” she said. “He positively influenced a decade of young people who have gone on to carry his message and their experience to change the world.”
The $1.2 million that organizers are trying to raise would be enough to install all-weather turf and light the field for night use. “It is an all-or-nothing proposition,” Mr. Galione said. “If we have only enough money to turf but not light we will shelve and wait.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi is supportive. “It’s a wonderful organization,” he said. “We can’t thank them enough for their hard work.”
The artificial turf would allow year-round use of a practice field that currently spends months idle so worn grass can regrow.
The project is designed to increase the availability of the field.
“The field would be a multi-sport field lined for all five sports,” Mr. Galione said, listing football, field hockey, soccer, boys lacrosse, and girls lacrosse.
The current field is used from September to November, weekdays, for practice only by the high school’s freshman football team, and for Ridgefield Youth Football practices.
“It is destroyed by November, then spends all of spring and summer being ‘over-seeded’ and watered for use again in September-November,” Mr. Galione said.
The new field could be used weekdays by the high school from 2:30 to 5:30, then by youth sports evenings during the week. It would be shared by high school and youth sports on Saturdays, and used by youth teams only on Sundays, Mr. Galione said.
The Tiger Hollow Committee has an application scheduled for a Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday, Feb. 5 public hearing, slated to begin after 7:30 p.m. in the lower level meeting room of the Town Hall Annex (old high school) at 66 Prospect Ridge.
Upgrading the practice field was part of a master plan that was presented to the commission when plans for the original stadium project were approved.
“This practice field was always part of it,” said Bob Jewell, Tiger Hollow’s attorney.
Town Planner Betty Brosius told the commission the practice field project could be approved as a revision to the original special permit. She asked the commission to walk the site to decide whether a public hearing was called for.
Given the roughly 40-foot height of the light poles and the concerns about a field of turf made from crumbed tires draining toward the Titicus River — part of the New York City water supply watershed — commissioners decided the proposal should have a public hearing.
“You’re talking about pretty large lights there, and what some may perceive as a controversial turf field,” said commission member Joe Fossi at a Jan. 8 meeting.
The field would have a “Musco Lighting system” that matches the one installed at the main Tiger Hollow field in 2009, according to Mr. Galione.
“The clusters down-light to limit ‘light pollution,’ ” Mr. Galione said. “They are computer-controlled and scheduled to power up and down.”
As for environmental and health concerns, Mr. Galione pointed to a collaborative study done by four state agencies, including the Department of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Protection, and peer reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. The study “shows that health risks are not elevated from playing on the fields,” said a July 2010 release from the state Department of Public Health. “Storm water runoff findings indicate that proper management of this runoff is prudent to address possible environmental effects. …
“The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) evaluated the environmental risk associated with storm water runoff from the artificial turf fields tested in the air study. Three of eight storm water samples showed elevated levels of zinc leaching from the fields that may present a risk to aquatic organisms. Other metals and rubber related compounds tested in runoff were not elevated.
“Based on these results, DEP concludes that there is no risk to drinking water from this runoff, but a potential risk exists for surface waters and aquatic organisms.”
Mr. Galione said, “We would build a water drainage system to specification with extra attention to storm runoff management as recommended by Connecticut Department of Public Health.”
“Water goes through multiple layers of crushed and finish stone covered by geo textile cover. Probably much cleaner than water in my tap …”
The crumbed rubber is “still the best for cushioning” athletes’ bodies, Mr. Galione said.
The committee also planned to “top dress” the new field with green encapsulated rubber “cool fill” that helps keep the temperature down “and looks better,” he said.