Niagara Gazette

September 26, 2013

Falls school board talking $67M capital project as work on phase 1 winds down

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — With a week of rain behind it, Falls School District officials are pleased to know what they’re paying millions of dollars for is working as expected.

Last week’s showers temporarily delayed the final installation of the turf field for football, soccer and lacrosse in the athletic complex the district is building as part of its $67 million capital improvement project. But while the pomp and circumstance won’t happen when they wanted, officials were encouraged by what they saw instead.

“With all of those rainy days last week, the drainage system held up perfectly,” Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said. “The field area didn’t hold any water at all. Where as at Sal Maglie, we had to move the football game to (Lancaster) Saturday because there was so much water. The field’s been put to the test and it’s working well.”

More updates about the progress of the first phase of the project, including the fields, will be presented at the district’s next school board meeting, which begins with an informational session at 5:30 p.m. tonight at the district’s offices, 630 66th St. The public portion is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Though the weather was uncooperative this past week, the fields portion of the project remains ahead of schedule and under budget, Bianco said. Crews are beginning to work on the tennis courts and will soon be looking at starting the baseball diamonds, though those won’t be progressing much before spring 2014.

Part of the project’s $67 million price tag is devoted to installing the same artificial turf field on a total of nine playing surfaces in the district’s athletic complex, a number many in the field turf industry say is rather large for a high school.

Jim Dobmeier, president and founder of A-Turf, which is the contractor overseeing the district’s operation as the field builder, said he’s never been part of a project so big. His company will eventually provide the district with 711,000 square feet of turf, a number he said is probably unprecedented.

“At the high school level, I don’t think there are any other schools with nine fields like this,” he said. “I know I’ve never been asked to do a site like this before. When I tell people outside the area about the fields, they just scratch their heads.”

A-Turf, a Cheektowaga-based company, has installed the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium and practically every high school and college facility in the area sporting the realistic fiber material. He said the carpet is designed to simulate grass, as it’s a longer blade similar to what a natural playing field would resemble.

After the field is sewn together, including some of the important markings for the sports expecting to use the surface – like each five yard mark for football or the goal crease for soccer – crews hand stitch in some of the smaller markings. Logos, such as the one at midfield displaying the district’s initials in the school colors, and the endzone markings are sewn into the field next, completing the playing surface.

Next, the builder must create the effect of the ground beneath the grass. So A-Turf trucks in sand and rubber, which are combined together to provide a replica of dirt.

“Per field, it’s about a three-week process,” Dobmeier said. “It depends on the crew, the weather and how much detail the owner wants. If you can imagine baseball fields, they have much less game marks. There are a lot more in football.”

While the district awaits its first completed field, the discussion about naming its athletic complex still waits for confirmation of what can be done.

District attorney Angelo Massaro said he’s finished his investigation into whether the district could sell naming rights to the stadium area, which will include the multiple turf fields and a to-be-built field house for indoor sports like wrestling.

Massaro said he’s prepared to present his findings, though there is no set date for him to do so at this time.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.