Thursday November 8, 2012

BRANDON CANEVARI

Manchester Journal

MANCHESTER -- Manchester town officials say damage done to Applejack Field this year may result in games not being able to be held there when spring arrives.

Parks and Recreation Department director Liz Ambuhl said the field was damaged due to usage and weather conditions and needs to be repair.

"I’m waiting to have a turf expert come in and work with our DPW (Department of Public Works) crew, the Town Manager (John O’Keefe), myself and we will put together an action plan to repair the field," Ambuhl said.

Experts were at the field on Wednesday and Ambuhl said they would help the town create a plan.

O’Keefe said that it is unclear at this time who will be responsible for paying for the repairs because it is unknown what will have to be made and there are a couple of different options that could be pursued. A cost estimate has yet to be determined as well.

"It really depends on whether it can be done with in-house staff or not," said O’Keefe of the potential cost. "The field hasn’t been dormant for that long. We’ve still been playing games on it up until about a week ago. So it will take us a little while to get a plan together. It’s not going to be an easy fix. It’s not just a matter of putting down some grass seed."

One of the issues is that the field is losing its crown, causing water to settle in the middle of the field -- a problem experts have said needs to be addressed.

If Applejack Field is not ready by the spring, it would impact Burr and Burton Academy to some degree. Although athletic director Kathi Bierwirth said the school managed before Applejack was built, it would present a challenge because there is only one legal-sized softball field in Manchester.

"If we don’t have Applejack it will definitely be some juggling to try to fit them around the softball (schedule) if we have to play everything on this main field, which then again creates problems for our field [because of] heavy usage and put it in some kind of not great shape going into next fall," said Bierwirth. "So, it will be a challenge for sure, but we’ll make it happen the best we can if we can’t play on Applejack."

If Applejack is unable to be used, the softball team will have limited practice time on the softball field because it would be used to host lacrosse games, Bierwirth said.

A field up above the school where the football team practiced this year was originally built as a boys lacrosse field and Bierwirth said there is the possibility that some games may switch.

Though it is unclear at this time whether or not games will be played on Applejack Field in the spring, O’Keefe said the field may not be ready by May. If that is the case, it could impact an agreement with the semi-pro soccer team Vermont Voltage to have them play up to five games at Applejack this coming season.

"They’re interested in playing a certain number of games on the field and we may have to push them off," said O’Keefe. "The problem with the field is that you can’t play on it all the time. It just doesn’t work like that. Š There’s only so much abuse it can take."

A game that took a large toll on the field was an Oct. 19 football game between Burr and Burton Academy and North Country -- a game played in the pouring rain.

Discussions did take place between Bierwirth, O’Keefe, and Ambuhl about the possibility of postponing the game, but ultimately the game went off as planned.

"Unfortunately with the way the forecast was it was a crap shoot and I don’t think anyone anticipated we were going to get that much rain and we had a team that was driving four hours so their departure time was very early," Bierwirth said. "It would have been different perhaps if Š Fair Haven happened to be there and they were an hour away and we got the downpour like we did during warmups. Š We could have pulled the plug perhaps on the game and they could have come back on Saturday, but because the team was from North Country and had left at noontime it made it rather difficult to make that call."