Tiger Hollow: Stadium ‘wear and tear’ raises eyebrows at school board meeting

Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow in Ridgefield.
Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow in Ridgefield.

Tiger Hollow, the track and artificial turf sports facility at Ridgefield High School, hosted 640 events during the 2018-19 school year.
That number is almost seven times more than the 90 events the stadium was designed to handle — a fact that led the school board to question who is responsible for the cost of replacing the astroturf field at its June 10 meeting.
Jill Bornstein, CEO of Tiger Hollow Inc., the nonprofit that oversees the facility, said both turf fields at the stadium will eventually need to be replaced at a cost of $400,000 each.
“There’s a lot of wear and tear on the field — just this year, Tiger Hollow I had 640 events, Tiger Hollow II had 490,” said Bornstein, referring to the facilities two turf fields.
High School Athletic Director Dane Street said that before the turf fields were built, there were 88 events held at Tiger Hollow held in a school year.
“Just to give an overview of the type of facility we have now compared to where it was, the number of events on that field prior to the initial build back in 2001 was 88 events over the entire school year… that was practices and games," said Street. "And now we’re at a point this school year where the primary field at Tiger Stadium this school year alone there were 640 events. Now that includes practices for high school teams, that includes games for high school teams, it also includes youth events and outside organizations using that field.”
“Obviously, that’s night and day compared to what the facility is designed to handle,” said Street.
The first turf field should be replaced during the 2020-21 school year and the second turf field —built in 2013 —should be replaced in 2023, according to Bornstein’s presentation.
When the first turf field was expanded in 2001, the Board of Selectmen agreed to set aside $43,000 each year to pay for the cost of fixing and replacing the astroturf field — but not for the cost of resurfacing the running track that encircles the turf field.
In 2011, the schools used some of that money to resurface the running track.
“Basically, there’s going to be a gap of about $214,000 for that particular field,” Bornstein said.
The Board of Selectmen also agreed to put up $20,000 each year for turf maintenance, in lieu of having to fertilize and mow a grass field (the town Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for maintaining school grounds), and the school board agreed to pay an additional $10,000 into the town’s “other funds” account. That money is supposed to be from revenue the schools earn back from field use — gate receipts, field rentals, and the like — but the Board of Education has not paid into that fund.
The Athletics Advisory Council (AAC) also agreed to raise $5,000 a year to help fund the cost of replacing the field.
Bornstein said there will likely be a shortfall of $200,000 in funding when it comes time to replace the Tiger Hollow II turf field in 2023.
“Can I just clarify something?” asked board member Fran Walton. “Tiger Hollow — the town owns the land, is that correct? … That’s the fundamental question, who owns it?”
“Those are questions we have as well,” said Street.
“That area is owned by Ridgefield,” Bornstein explained.
Board member Katherine Holz asked if the town’s funding could be increased.
“Whenever they’ve been harrowing and cutting things back, they certainly haven’t increased that amount,” said Walton.
“It’s underfunded,” said Holz.
“The reality is: There will be a gap when it comes time to fund it,” said Bornstein.
Other projects
Bornstein also presented a list of projects and upgrades the organization wants to complete at Tiger Hollow over the next 10 years
Those include purchasing audio and video equipment to support live broadcasts to the new LED scoreboard at the stadium. Bornstein said high school students recently hosted a movie night in the stadium where around 100 students watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
She said the organization also wants to create better access for “folks who are not mobile,” since the slopes down to the stadium can be difficult for them to navigate.
There are also plans to expand the team rooms, which often overflow into the weight room.
The weight room would also be expanded, since the current space is heavily used and is often overcrowded.
Street said Tiger Hollow remains a “premier facility.”
“We have two beautiful turf fields, side-by-side,” he said.
Wear and tear
Street said the field is coming up on the end of its eight-year warranty. Most fields have a lifespan of about 10 to 12 years, but because of its constant use, Tiger Hollow’s will have to be replaced sooner, he said.
“A lot of the wear-and-tear is from town events?” asked board member Tracey O’Connor.
Street estimated about half of the events that use the field are from the town, the other half are practices and games from the high school athletic program.
“At the end of the day, we want to have this conversation with you and then have this conversation with Rudy and the Board of Selectmen,” Street told the board.
“We need everyone to know that this is coming down the pike… we don’t want to get to the point where we have to close facilities because they’re unsafe.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article quoted Dane Street as saying the astroturf had been designed for 88 events each year. There were 88 events in a year prior to the field construction, but that figure was not used in the design of the field. This story has been updated.