Question of turf at Allegheny Valley soccer field draws residents’ ire
Some Allegheny Valley School District residents say the district’s soccer field is in bad shape and should be converted to artificial turf. But they don’t want to do it just so a private soccer club can play there.
The comments came during a special school board meeting Thursday afternoon, during which Arsenal Football Club of PA gave a presentation seeking a long-term agreement with the district to use its soccer field for some of its games and practices.
Arsenal is a competitive youth soccer club that contracts with school districts and municipalities to use several fields around the Pittsburgh region to train athletes to play soccer.
Arsenal Executive Director Jonathan Velotta said the group is seeking the long-term agreement with Allegheny Valley because they want to provide stability and a reliable location for their players and parents.
They bounce around between several fields right now on a year-to-year basis.
“Outdoor space is at a premium,” he said. “We’d like to try to form some kind of partnership.”
Velotta said if an agreement were to be made, the district would have first priority of dates and times for practices and games. Then Arsenal would fill in the available days.
He said they’d be willing to pay roughly $30,000 to use the field — but it would have to be converted to a turf surface from the grass field it is now.
“Grass surface is not ideal,” Velotta said.
Who would be responsible for developing and paying for the turf would be decided if negotiations continue.
“We’re up for discussion with that,” Velotta said.
What Burrell decided
The Burrell School District recently faced a similar situation regarding their football field.
The estimates that school board worked with indicated that installing natural sod would cost around $350,000 to $400,000, and artificial turf would cost between $1.2 million and $1.3 million.
Natural grass maintenance costs are about $40,000 to $50,000 annually, Burrell officials were told, which is about four times the cost for maintenance of synthetic turf. But the artificial surface would have to be replaced in 12 to 14 years at the cost of about $400,000.
Burrell opted to stay with grass.
Parent, resident, board reaction
Allegheny Valley School District’s turf question drew ire from parents, who said the field needs to be converted to turf anyway — but the district shouldn’t consider it just because Arsenal requires it.
“The field’s atrocious,” said parent Mark Shock. “We need a turf field regardless.”
Shock said he doesn’t think the district should jump into a long-term deal with Arsenal or any other private organization without a one- or two-year trial period of renting to them.
Shock called the existing field a “cow pasture” with ruts and dips caused by excessive rain that make it dangerous for players.
Resident Michelle Walsh lives across the road from the soccer field. She isn’t in favor of having more noise and parking issues if Arsenal would use the field.
“It’s a residential area,” she said. “People are going to be using that field nonstop.”
The field is located along Butler Street near Highland Avenue and Chester Street. There is limited off-street parking in the area.
Walsh said she knew some games and practices would occur when she bought her house. She didn’t mind because she knew they would involve district students, but she doesn’t want to deal with constant noise from outside teams.
“This will be a big burden,” she said.
Residents also cautioned the board about getting into a bad agreement that will end up hurting the district’s own soccer programs.
“We’re very aware of the dangers of bad lease agreements,” said Stephen Puskar, board member.
He also reminded residents that no decision has been made on whether the field will be turfed or not. He cautioned that, if one field is turfed, then to make it an equal playing field the other fields should be turfed as well.
School Board President Larry Pollick said the decision will not come lightly or quickly. The school board will need to discuss the information presented Thursday. The meeting was recorded because a majority of school board members were not present.
“As a board, we’re going to try to do the right thing,” he said.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .