By Gavin Menu
Todd Gulluscio toured the bumpy and beat-up grass field behind the Pierson Middle-High School Tuesday afternoon, kicking up chunks of dirt and dead grass while he spoke about a proposed new synthetic turf field that would “serve the entire community” and replace an area where approximately 500 students between the 6th and 12th grades recreate on a daily basis.
“You have a real unique situation here that’s a little outside the box,” said Gulluscio, the Sag Harbor School District’s Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel. “This field can be touched by every kid.”
The proposed turf field, along with a two-lane walking track around the perimeter, make up the bulk of Proposition #2 in a capital bond project that will go before voters in the Sag Harbor School District on Wednesday, November 13.
The total cost of Proposition #2, the only capital improvement that directly affects the athletics program, is $1,620,000.
“The neat thing about this is it’s not just an athletic venture, it’s a physical education venture, it’s a recess venture,” Gulluscio said. “That’s the most used piece of property we have, which is why it’s in the shape it’s in.
“We’re also looking at safety because the injuries on the turf field, percentage wise, are much lower than they are on a natural surface,” he continued, “particularly when looking at what we have out back right now.”
Sports programs that would make the most use of the proposed turf field would be varsity field hockey and boys and girls soccer in the fall, all of which currently play and practice at Mashashimuet Park, and varsity softball and middle school baseball in the spring. Included as part of the turf field are a softball diamond in one corner and a baseball diamond in the opposite corner.
Varsity and JV baseball would continue to practice and play games at Mashashimuet Park, which allows enough space for some of the better players to hit a long ball. The diamonds at the school would have no dirt, aside from a portable pitcher’s mound that would be installed on the baseball diamond in the spring. Gulluscio said some positives with having turf baseball and softball fields are games would no longer be cancelled because of wet conditions, the ball will bounce and roll consistently across the field and maintenance is virtually eliminated.
Gulluscio is unsure at the moment whether a homerun fence would be erected for home softball games, but he said having removable plugs to support the fence would be similar to the way the bases are installed.
The negative aspects of losing the traditional dirt diamonds seem to have more to do with tradition, with clouds of dust from a play at home plate or the smell of freshly-cut grass obviously becoming obsolete.
“My understanding is that it’s a consistent surface,” Gulluscio said, pointing out that the baseball and softball infields would be the same “grass” turf as the rest of the field, just colored brown. “If you look in other places around the country, they got used to that concept real quick because of the weather conditions.”
Also included as part of Proposition #2 would be a concrete sitting area with picnic tables next to the field, as well as a new scoreboard. Having home games in the high school’s backyard, Gulluscio said, would create a more spectator-friendly atmosphere.
“Just look at homecoming,” he said. “This is nothing against the park, I love the relationship we have with the park. But can you image one game, after another game, after another game, all on the same field?”
In terms of interscholastic sports, Gulluscio said Pierson teams are often at a disadvantage come playoff time, where the majority of field hockey and soccer games are played on turf.
“We’re the only school on the South Fork without a turf field. If you look at Suffolk County, they’re all over the place, certainly from Westhampton on out, and those are the teams we’re competing against,” Gulluscio said. “This is a great thing for Pierson in terms of athletics, recess, kids and community. It’s got all the components of something really special.”