Sussex County News

Sparta Board of Education Announces Plans to Build Turf Field

Sparta High School's Cassels Field, across the street from the high school is an option for turfing a field. Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Sparta High School Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Softball field behind the high school would either become the multi sport turf field or baseball field Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Cassels Field is one of the options for turfing at Sparta High School Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Baseball would either remain on Cassels Field or move to the back of the school if Cassels was turfed Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta Board of Education is planning to construct a turf field on the campus of Sparta High School, using money from the Capital account of the board’s budget, according to Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi.  At the August board of education meeting, board member Michael McGovern asked Rossi to give an update on the athletic field ad hoc committee’s progress.

Rossi had eluded to the plan earlier in the meeting but “it had not been spoken about in public,” according to McGovern.  Rossi said he had met with the members of the committee three times since he began in Sparta. Those meetings were held on November 3, 2016, February 15 and June 28, 2017.

Rossi said the committee had been “formed 18 months ago and was charged with looking at getting a turf field.”  Board member Kylen Anderson said the issue had been named as “one of the top three goals in the Long Range Strategic Plan” created by members of the community.

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The list of ad hoc committee members, provided by Rossi, includes;

  • Architect Anthony Gianforcaro,
  • Barbara Decker former Sparta Business Administrator,
  • Daniel Johnson, Assistant Superintendent,
  • Dennis Tobin, former Sparta Superintendent
  • Jack Surdoval, Sparta Board of Education vice president,
  • Karen Scott, Sparta Board of Education member,
  • Kylen Anderson, Sparta Board of Education member,
  • Janet Ferraro, Sparta High School Principal,
  • Steve Stoner, Sparta High School Athletic Director,
  • Maryann Dilworth, Sparta Recreation Department,
  • Eric Powell, Sparta Township Engineer,
  • Gil Gibbs, Sparta Township Mayor,
  • Christine Quinn Sparta Township Council member,
  • Bob Hast, football coach
  • Heidi Eberding,
  • Laura Gennat,
  • Beth Hofgesang,
  • Michael Marchiano,
  • Elizabeth Van Fleet,
  • Kristen Mead,

A few other members names could not be confirmed in time for publication.  Neither could it be confirmed whether or not Tobin and Decker continued on the committee after leaving the Sparta school district.

Rossi said the plan was to use money from the Capital budget to cover the cost, not to go to a referendum.  Board vice president Jack Surdoval said there were two estimates “a high one and a low one.”  One estimate is “$2.9 million for a field behind the school, that would include everything,” according to Surdoval. 

Another option would be to build the field with the opportunity to “add other things later.”  While that would be a less expensive option, Surdoval did not explain what the scope of either project would be.

Yet a third plan, according to Rossi would be to turf the existing football field.  Rossi said that the architect and Business Administrator had just presented that plan as an option.  Before they made that suggestion, the concern had been that it would not receive approval from Department of Environmental Protection.

Rossi provided the architect’s estimates for costs that “hover around $3 million.”

  • Turf - $1.1 million
  • Lights - $400,000
  • Scoreboard - $50,000
  • Concrete and Asphalt - $220,000
  • Retaining Walls - $120,000
  • Sanitary Line Relocation - $21,000
  • Additional Fill - $220,000
  • Chain Link Fence - $37,000
  • Home Bleachers - $488,000
  • Press Box - $105,000
  • Design Fee - $159,000
  • Contingency - $210,000
  • Total - $3,032,000

“If we are able to do the project at Cassels we eliminate the costs associated with the scoreboard, asphalt and concrete, retaining walls, fencing, home bleachers and press box.

The plan announced by Rossi at the Monday meeting called for the girls’ softball field to be moved to the practice field between Cassels Field and the track. 

“The girls love this plan,” Rossi said.  “They are excited about the new field.”

If Cassels Field were turfed the girls would still be moved from their current location according to Rossi and the boys’ baseball field would be constructed behind the high school, where the softball field is currently located. 

“The boys are excited about getting a new field,” Rossi said.

Rossi said he is planning to go to Trenton to meet with the representatives of the “Environmental Protection Agency to determine what hurdles needed to be cleared” to build the field behind the school.  He intended to discuss the Cassel’s field option as well. 

McGovern asked Rossi about a timeline for the project.  Rossi said “fall of [20]18 If it was behind the school and September [20]19 on Cassel’s Field. 

Surdoval said, “Permits were submitted [to build] behind the high school already.”

This is a project that has been under discussion since 2008.  During the referendum to reconstruct the high school, the field was on the ballot as an optional question.  The voters approved the $72 million reconstruction but not the turf field.

At the end of the construction process, the board of education intended to use money left over from the referendum to construct a multi-sport turf field and an eight lane track behind the high school.  The bond counsel had confirmed that the money could be used in that way to repair or replace things damaged or lost during construction.  With the new footprint of the building and the required bog turtle habitat, the school lost five fields.

Before permit applications were even submitted, the Department of Education Office of Facilities in  Trenton let Sparta know they would not allow the funds to be used for a turf field, despite other district having recently done so. 

In 2012, the board of education put the question of a turf field to voters in another bond referendum.  Once again the single question of putting a field behind the high school was defeated by 159 votes. 

Sparta Township recently unveiled a turf field in Station Park.  Field number three was turfed along with additional improvements including lighting and fencing.

Rossi said he would be meeting with the Sparta Township Manager on Thursday and they would discuss the proposed project. 

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