By CHRIS EBERHART
The Town of Eastchester is looking to renovate and add ballfields to support the growing number of student-athletes in the schools that is becoming increasingly burdensome in the Village of Bronxville.
In Eastchester, the high school’s turf field outlived its life expectancy and concerns about exposed seams and worn surfaces prompted the Board of Education’s unanimous vote to put forth a $1.8 million bond referendum to replace the field.
The bond, which will cost the taxpayers an extra $30 per year for 15 years, will cover the cost of installing a new synthetic turf field, re-pointing work in the middle and high schools, resurfacing the track, adding fencing around the field and installing security cameras.
Eastchester school district’s bond referendum takes place Dec. 12.
Although the field at Eastchester High School is mostly used by Eastchester schools for games and recess, Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, explained how the out-of-commission field is causing a ripple effect on the rest of the town’s fields.
“That one little pebble in the pond has humungous ramifications for the rest of the sports leagues that all need field space,” Colavita said. “A couple weeks ago, we were told the high school soccer team has to play a night game at Haindl Field on Friday, which means teen scene [an organiation started by Colavita for local youths] has to get bounced, which means Blue Devils have to get bounced, which means soccer has to get bounced.”
Colavita said the soccer team ultimately played on Tuckahoe High School’s field, the Tuck-ahoe football team played at Haindl Field in Eastchester at night and the Eastchester High School football team played their game at Haindl Field during the day.
Ruth Wood, a member of the Bronxville Board of Education, said the amount of student-athletes and school teams in Bronxville have nearly doubled since 2002 and the field space has not increased to accommodate the growing number of athletes.
“We’re at a breaking point where we can’t find fields for all of our student-athletes,” Wood said. “There are two or three teams practicing on a small field at any time.”
Wood said Bronxville’s school district is exploring both in-village and out-of-village options to remedy the field-space shortage.
The first of which is to renovate the existing fields.
There is already an agreement in place between the Town of Eastchester and West-chester County to renovate Scout Field off of Midland Avenue in Bronxville, but wet-lands on the far side of the field prevent the town from expanding the field into a regulation-sized soccer field.
During an Oct. 28 meeting in Bronxville, Colavita said, in order to expand the field, the wetlands will have to be moved to somewhere else on the site, which is something the town is looking into, but, as of now, the plan is to keep the field at its current size.
The Bronxville Board of Education wants to spend $500,000 to add lights to Bronxville High School’s Chambers Field, which is the only regulation-sized field in the village.
The lights would lengthen the day and allow for late practices after games, but the proposition has been met with strong opposition by the field’s neighbors, who say their property values and quality of life will suffer.
Hayes Field off Midland Avenue in Bronxville, which Wood called a “big, fat mess,” is another small-sized field that is overused and worn out.
Wood said the field is meant for practice purposes only, but the school district is looking to reconfigure the field as part of a flood mitigation effort on the high school campus , which calls for the field to be ripped up so holding tanks for floodwaters can be installed underneath.
Instead of filling the field back in with dirt, school district officials want to lengthen the field and install artificial turf, which would provide a second regulation-sized field in Bronxville.Wood said the plan is only in the design phase, but early estimates place the project in the $1 million range.
A second option is out-of-village fields such as Haindl Field in Eastchester, Tibbetts Brook Park and Fleming Field in Yonkers and Concordia College.
Wood said the Yonkers and Concordia fields are unavailable and each bus ride to Eastchester will cost over $300.
As difficult as the juggling act is now, Supervisor Colavita said it’s only going to become more difficult during the spring, when the fields will experience the most use between lacrosse, baseball, spring soccer and softball among other sports. But he hopes, by the end, of spring 2014, there will be new fields constructed for the following fall and spring seasons.