By Sean Browne
The Mount Pleasant Board of Education got an earful last week from residents who urged district officials to install artificial turf at Westlake High School because of poor field conditions.
Board of Education President Colleen Scaglione Neglia said residents have pressed the board to discuss the possibility of holding a referendum to help finance an artificial surface. Last Thursday evening during a special meeting at Westlake High School, community members aired grievances about the current condition of the district’s outdoor athletic facilities.
It is unclear when a vote might occur and the estimated price of a bond because the board is still developing what would be included in the project, Neglia said.
“We don’t have an idea until we hear from everybody so I would be misguided if I answer that now,” she said. “Maybe everybody wants a turf field but maybe they don’t want $17 million worth of turf field so that is what we are trying to gather now.”
Trustees asked the residents, who filled about two-thirds of the high school’s auditorium for the forum, to assess the district’s fields. Responses painted a highly unflattering picture.
One resident explained the embarrassment for Westlake’s athletic teams having to play in substandard conditions when visiting schools’ teams visit the campus, particularly for football and lacrosse games.
“The high school lacrosse team was in the state championship and the next year we don’t get our first practice until the second game of the season because we don’t have a field to practice on,” said a resident. “We hosted a playoff football game but we had to go to Blind Brook because we couldn’t have it here. It’s embarrassing and our kids worked hard to have that home field advantage.”
When Trustee Michael Griffin asked the crowd what they thought of turf fields at the Westlake campus, someone called out, “It’s about time,”
Another resident related a story about the poor conditions that his sons modified lacrosse team had to endure at one of the Westlake fields.
“The team couldn’t play at the varsity field because it would ruin the grass so we had to play at the fields up top, the resident said. “There is absolutely no grass, so we had to take a stick and make a circle in the dirt to indicate a lacrosse crease, and you could see the other teams laughing at us. I mean what are we doing we should have added turf along time ago.”
Poor-quality fields weren’t the only gripe among the residents. Some residents said they wanted there should be lights to hold events at night and a press box.
District officials plan to discuss the issue again after reviewing feedback from the community.
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