WPCNR PRESS BOX. From Archbishop Stepinac High School. June 10, 2010: Alumni and friends of Stepinac High announced plans for construction of a $1.9 Million all-purpose synthetic turf sports facility planned to be installed on the site of the present school football field behind the school. The announcement was made at the 7th annual Stepinac Athletic Golf Outing dinner held at Brynwood Golf & County Club in Armonk.
Half the funds have already been raised through private donations. The new field is to be installed in the summer of 2011, and ready for play in the fall of that year.
When NFL great Bob Hyland and noted attorney Bill Plunkett played football as members of Archbishop Stepinac High School’s Crusaders teams, natural grass was what every team played on.
Now, long since the two men graduated (Plunkett in 1958 and Hyland in 1963) and went on to successful business careers, that playing field—in use since 1955—is truly showing its age.
Having hosted thousands of athletes and more than a thousand games, the original field has undergone severe wear and tear. Adding to the problem, in addition to football and baseball, other sports programs were added over the years including soccer and lacrosse. With the introduction of summer camps and extended sports programs, the field is used year-round and never has time to rest and recover. In spite of efforts to continue maintaining it with seeding, fertilizer and water, the field can no longer sustain a level of use it was never intended to accommodate.
The need for a long overdue improvement of the athletic fields as an essential requirement forStepinac High School’s future is the reason why Plunkett,
Chairman of the Stepinac Board of Trustees and Hyland, member of the school’s Foundation Board, are spearheading a fundraising drive— “Team Up for Turf”— to create enhanced outdoor sports playing fields that will replace the natural grass with Field Turf, an all-purpose, year-round artificial playing surface. Details about the plan were announced recently at the 7th annual Stepinac Athletic Golf Outing dinner held at Brynwood Golf & County Club in Armonk.
The improved athletic fields will provide an ideal playing surface for football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse as well as for the school’s physical education curriculum. In addition, it will feature a modern track, replacing the current, five-lane asphalt-rubberized track.
The improved sports fields are expected to cost $1.9 million with $900,000 having already been pledged by alumni donors. The goal of “Team Up for Turf” is to raise the remaining $1 million in time to start the project in May 2011 and have the fields ready for play at the start of the new September 2011 school year.
“Providing top quality playing fields that meet today’s standards for high school sports is crucially important to the future of our school and Stepinac’s ability to remain competitive,” Plunkett stated. “This is a very exciting step forward for our new Board of Trustees and we are very encouraged by the response of the alumni and other supporters to the fundraising drive thus far.”
Plunkett noted that the initiative is being funded entirely by private donations. “In spite of the recession, we take great pride that so many alumni and other supporters have already stepped up to the plate to invest in Stepinac’s future. We are very fortunate to also have a committee of dedicated volunteers who have and will continue to work diligently to raise awareness about the school’s needs.”
Hyland stated: “Some of my best memories are from my football days at Stepinac which prepared me for my sports career that continued at Boston College and then with the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Chicago Bears. Since that time, there have been extraordinary improvements in sports field technologies that enable athletes to play safely and to lower the risk for injuries. The time has come for Stepinac to have athletic fields that match 21st century needs.”
Msgr. Anthony Marchitelli, Stepinac President, noted that Stepinac has always sought to be a good neighbor by opening its campus for White Plains and Westchester community groups and activities and local needs. ”Having all-weather, all-season sports athletic fields means that we will be able to expand these community programs as well as provide an additional source of income by hosting special athletic events.” He added: “From a fiscal perspective, this is a sensible investment because the cost of maintaining the current field is running about $25,000 a year.”
Coach Mike O’Donnell, Stepinac Athletic Director, said: “The new sports fields will enhance the school’s standing as a member of the Catholic High School Athletic Association, the largest CatholicHigh School athletic league in the U.S. comprising 25 schools. Right now, there are only two in the league—including Stepinac—that still play on natural grass. The benefits of artificial turf are well documented. These improvements will bring us up to the standards that most schools enjoy.”
He added: “Sports are extremely important to our overall goal of fully developing the young men who attend our school. Our artificial turf project will impact all of our student body, not just athletes. We anticipate increased participation in our intramural sports program as well as new activities in the physical education curriculum. Overall, we are going to have a first-rate athletic facility that will serve the next generation of students.”
The new playing fields will be created on the site of the school’s current fields. The playing fields will be out of service during the approximately four months of construction next summer, thereby avoiding any interference with Stepinac’s inter-scholastic sports schedule. The school’s tennis courts that are adjacent to the fields will not be affected by the construction. The plan will be subject to review and approval by the White Plains Building Department and Zoning Board.
Among the benefits and highlights of the improvements are:
- New field will encourage more of the student body to join interscholastic athletics
- New field will allow the physical education department to include outdoor activities into its curriculum
- New track would provide a safe venue to train and compete
- Synthetic material will allow teams to use the field on bad weather days and allow for earlier use in the spring season when lingering snow is usually an issue
- New football surface will save $25,000 annually on field maintenance and labor
- New football field will allow unlimited use without any impact to the surface
- New football field rentals would provide a revenue source
- Over 3,000 cubic yards of top soil removed from the field would be used to renovate the practice field in the lower lot
- Construction incidentals include the installation of safety screening for the baseball field and the re-grading (with recaptured top soil) and seeding of practice field