Damaged Southmoreland field off-limits
By Paul Paterra
Published: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Southmoreland School District officials continue to work toward determining what caused significant flooding at Russ Grimm Field, while trying to find a place for those entities that use that field to play and practice.
The field suffered extensive damage initially on Aug. 23 as heavy rains invaded western Pennsylvania. Five days later, flooding occurred again.
Superintendent John Molnar updated the situation at Thursday's school board meeting.
Molnar said he does not remember the field ever having this type of problem in his years with the district.
He explained Thursday much of what he stated in a letter earlier this week addressed to “Scottie athletes, band members, parents, boosters and constituents.”
Much of the base of the field — which is comprised of sand and gravel — was washed away, not only where the field-turf surface was moved, but in areas where it remained intact. Erosion resulted in hollow and raised areas. In some places the turf is stretched across a divot with nothing to support it. It has been deemed unsafe.
“We have made the field off-limits,” Molnar said.
District officials have met with the East Huntingdon Supervisors to try to determine what caused the amount of flooding on the field. Another meeting is planned 8:30 a.m. Friday with county and railroad representatives.
Molnar explained the district considered repairing the existing playing surface and subsurface, but this may not be a feasible option.
“Our insurance carrier was reluctant to have us do that,” Molnar said. “They said if we were to go that route, they were not interested in assuming any liability for any student injuries that occurred on the field.”
ProGrass, which installed the field, said any repair would be temporary since the turf was stretched and torn during the flooding.
It appears the only option would be to install a new surface and subsurface. The insurance company would pick up the tab minus a $25,000 deductible.
This has created a “scheduling nightmare,” according to athletic director Charlie Swink.
With this in mind, the board voted Thursday night to use California University of Pennsylvania for home football games at a cost of $3,165 per game, minus gate receipts as long as Russ Grimm Field cannot be used. Swink said the district took a loss of slightly less than $1,000 for the Aug. 30 game against Jeannette.
“Last Friday's football game at Cal U went off without a hitch,” Swink said. “It's kind of our own home field advantage, instead of being moved around week to week, not knowing where we're going to be... They're willing to work with us and hopefully give our kids the best experience they can their senior year. We want to try to give them the best event we can and I think Cal U is the place to do it.”
Swink said several schools have offered facilities for soccer games. Southmoreland Elementary School also may be used.
The football team will continue to practice at the grass field adjacent to Russ Grimm Field. The band will practice at the baseball field. Soccer teams may practice at Kendi Field on occasion.
“The question on everybody's mind is, will we have a field that we can get at least one home game in; the answer is we don't know,” Molnar said. “It's looking a little dubious at this time. Our hope is to get at least one home game in, but we want this job done correctly....We feel terrible our seniors aren't playing on their home field, but it was an unfortunate and certainly unexpected circumstance.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media.
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