locally owned since 1854

MASD looks at athletic field usage; new soccer facility may be a possibility in the future

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/29/17

Middletown Area School District has a lot of real estate devoted to athletics.

The school district has 12 athletic fields spread throughout its main campus off North Union Street in Lower Swatara …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

MASD looks at athletic field usage; new soccer facility may be a possibility in the future

War Memorial Field, home to the Blue Raiders, has seen plenty of action recently — and not just by the football team, seen here against Milton Hershey in October.
War Memorial Field, home to the Blue Raiders, has seen plenty of action recently — and not just by the football team, seen here against Milton Hershey in October.
special to the press & journal by donald graham
Posted

Middletown Area School District has a lot of real estate devoted to athletics.

The school district has 12 athletic fields spread throughout its main campus off North Union Street in Lower Swatara Township, home of the high, middle and Reid elementaries. The campus also has tennis courts and a fitness trail.

Then there is heavily used War Memorial Field next to Fink Elementary School in Middletown.

The school board over several months this year has been discussing a number of issues and challenges concerning its athletic facilities; including the best use of each field to meet current and future needs, whether to replace natural grass with artificial turf at War Memorial Field or at any other fields, and how district-owned facilities can help meet recreational needs of the broader community.

District officials have expressed concern over potential overuse of War Memorial Field, which is the only field available to the district for football. Safety issues have been identified at a practice field that was being used for football at the main campus, which means it no longer is used.

War Memorial Field is also used for soccer. The area youth football programs also used it this season. There has been no discussion about taking the field out of use.

To help in addressing these and other issues, the board on Sept. 25 voted 8-0 to hire Architerra, a Coopersburg-based consulting firm, to do a master plan of all outdoor school district athletic facilities.

The $23,300 cost, plus reimburseable expenses, is to come out of district Capital Reserve funds, according to minutes from the Sept. 25 meeting.

The master plan is to “create an overall vision and then develop a long-term plan for how to accomplish” the vision, Superintendent Lori Suski said. “The plan will also help to drive out needs versus wants as there is a limited amount of capital reserve funding and prudent decisions must be made about how those funds are used (i.e. maintenance of buildings versus various projects for athletics).”

Architerra in its Sept. 5 written proposal to the district said that the plan will focus on “developing a safe, strategic, economically oriented methodology to enhance the athletic experience.”

As part of the study Architerra will do an examination of “every outdoor venue within the school district’s high school campus,” as well as War Memorial Field and another field elsewhere in Lower Swatara Township, Architerra said.

“Every field at each site will be analyzed in terms of soil conditions, physical characteristics, size, drainage, playing surface quality, and support facilities. Usage of each field will be detailed and tabulated,” Architerra continued. “Maintenance procedures and equipment will be reviewed and recommendations for short-term and long-term sustainability will be made. Based upon the school district’s needs and the community needs, we will determine if a shortage of fields exists and how best to accommodate the current and future needs. This will include the feasibility of whether or not synthetic turf is an appropriate option, or if the relocation of selective venues makes sense from a number of perspectives.”

Architerra has proposed a “very aggressive” timetable to finish the master plan by the end of January, Suski told the school board in October.

That means the plan would be in place in time for any projects the school district may want to undertake starting in summer, 2018, Suski told the Press & Journal in an email. Suski did not identify specific projects that the district plans to undertake.

But a new soccer stadium could end up being identified as the area of greatest need among district athletic facilities, based upon preliminary discussions with Architerra, district Director of Operations William Meiser told the board during a Sept. 14 joint meeting of the board’s operations and athletics and activities committees, according to meeting minutes.

Architerra in its proposal said the master plan will include a “‘plan of action’ on how best to enhance the athletic venues at the high school campus, plus War Memorial Field and the other off-site field.

“A strategy for development will be presented for the campus athletics, including phasing, cost estimates, and role synthetic in-fill turf may play, if any,” Architerra said.

A steering committee has been appointed including representatives of Architerra, the school district, and school board members Mel Fager and Brian Keating. The steering committee has met once and had another meeting scheduled to occur toward the end of November.

The school district had a feasibility study done in 2012, before the start of construction of the new high school, but that study focused on the condition of district buildings, not on athletic fields, Suski noted.

The need for a master plan also ties into discussions which have been underway for several months regarding possible changes to the Olmsted Regional Recreation Board, which is responsible for managing recreational services provided to residents who live throughout the school district.

A study funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been looking at all of the available field spaces in the district to determine the best location for a possible multipurpose field that could be used by both the school district and community/youth clubs, Suski said.

But the study does not address conditions or needs of any district athletic facilities, Suski added, only space considerations.

Several board members in recent months have also pointed out the need for the district to have its own comprehensive plan regarding athletic venues, “so there could be an overall vision for what needs to be accomplished,” Suski said.

The intent is for the plan to “stand the test of time so that as membership on the school board changes every few years, the vision is maintained and continues to be implemented,” Suski added. “The plan would become the roadmap to bringing the vision to fruition.”

Architerra specializes in athletic fields/venues designs and has done work for Middletown Area School District before, most recently to provide the design for renovating the district’s softball field.

Architerra in its proposal said that the firm has more than 33 years of experience doing athletic master plans. Its list of recent clients included several other school districts in the region — Manheim Township, Hempfield and Palmyra Area — as well as Gettysburg College, Dickinson College, and Princeton Academy.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment