Safe to play?

Locals question field conditions as spring postponements mount

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As the 2018 high school sports spring season begins its second half, many Warwick teams have had to endure numerous game postponements due to poor weather and field conditions.

The question that many locals are asking is whether or not the Warwick School Department has done enough to ensure the proper field conditions, or if they are simply rescheduling games at the first sight of rain and overlooking the problem.

With Warwick high schools already rescheduling over 40 events this spring, many have looked toward the grass fields in the city, specifically the football and lacrosse field at Pilgrim High that was renovated in 2016.

“More could have been done. If these fields were maintained properly the only thing that would have to be done is cutting the grass, fertilizing it and lining it…that’s not being done. The condition of those fields is ridiculous considering the amount of money spent. The condition of these fields is deplorable, it’s disgusting,” said Pilgrim parent Deb Tucci, who also sees more issues with the fields than just the grass itself. “They aren’t fertilizing the field, they’re not weed and seeding it, on top it all there’s goose feces everywhere. These kids are falling into goose feces, it’s a health hazard at this point.”

Warwick District Athletic Director Kenneth Rix believes that the postponements have been widespread across all schools and sports in the state, and that the field conditions are not to blame as much as the recent heavy rain showers.

“It’s not just the lacrosse field, every sport has had cancellations. Baseball, softball, tennis,” said Rix. “It’s been a wet spring, we can’t control the weather.”

Director of Warwick Schools Buildings and Grounds Steve Gothberg said that the primary reason for cancellations and postponements is to protect the athletes that use fields.

“When it’s a wet spring and the fields are wet you can’t play on them for player safety and you can’t shred the field. It’s more about student-athlete safety than anything and if the fields are very wet you can’t destroy them. It’s up to the AD to call the games, if he feels it’s unsafe then he’ll call the games,” said Gothberg. “You have to make a decision for what is best for the kids. My daughter played lacrosse for Toll Gate up until last year, you have to make a decision that’s best for the kids. Sometimes she got mad at me but that’s the way it is, you can’t control the weather.”

Gothberg also believes that the city and its employees have worked hard to make sure the field at Pilgrim High is maintained and safe.

“The city was kind enough to pay for most of the labor, we just had to pay for the materials. They’ve done a very good job with it but they just did the top. There’s never been any sort of drainage on the field, we did put some additional drainage in. When you don’t have the money you just put the top in, if you can’t put a [New England] Patriots field in then you just do the best you can. They did a fine job,” said Gothberg.

Although Gothberg understands the frustration surrounding game postponements, he also hopes that those involved realize that field conditions and safety go hand in hand.

“We’re more careful now than when the field was mud. When you spend 50-100 thousand on a field you don’t want to shred it. We are more careful, when you spend a lot of money you don’t want to shred the fields. I know it makes some people unhappy canceling games but in the long run the field will be in better shape and less students will get hurt. It’s about the kids,” said Gothberg.

Another discussion has been the idea of installing artificial turf.

Pilgrim Principal Gerry Habershaw feels that artificial turf would be ideal but is happy with the job the grounds crew has done in making the most with the budget that it has.

“It’s a brand-new field, there’s not much to maintain. We’re cautious about its use after heavy rain because things get torn up. That particular spot where the football field is was one time a swamp so it makes it hard to drain. Artificial turf is the way to go if you want to play sports year-round, but those fields are expensive and we don’t have one so we are going to try to keep the fields looking decent,” said Habershaw. “The maintenance of the fields hasn’t been the issue, the abundance of rain has caused the problem. Some parents in the area seem to say things without all the information and it’s disappointing that they take that route. It’s a brand-new field and we’re trying to make it last.”

Tucci begs to differ, however.

“Two, three years ago we were asking, ‘Why don’t we go with the artificial turf?’ The school said they couldn’t afford it but in the long run the artificial turf doesn’t need to be fertilized, doesn’t need to be weed killed, doesn’t have to be batched, doesn’t have to be cut. In the long run wouldn’t an artificial field (save) you money,” said Tucci.

Overall Tucci wants to see her son and the local student-athletes be able to finish their high school seasons off smoothly.

“These kids want to win. These kids want to finish their season because they know college is a whole other ballgame, many of them won’t even be able to play college sports,” said Tucci. “It’s the inconvenience of not being able to play during the week because the fields weren’t adequate.” 

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