DERBY >> Local lawmakers expect to score nearly $3 million in state funding for new athletic fields here.
According to state Rep. Theresa Conroy, D-Seymour, state Rep. Linda Gentile, D-Ansonia, and state Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge, the state Bond Commission is “expected to approve $2.99 million” for the Derby athletic field project when it meets on Friday.
The project would feature construction of a new, multipurpose artificial turf field with an eight-lane rubberized track and new field house at the Leo F. Ryan Athletic Complex on Chatfield Street, along with relocation and construction of a baseball field.
“This is great news for all the teams that will utilize this facility,” Conroy said in a press release. “I am especially delighted for the high school and middle school track programs that have been without a usable home track for meets for more than a decade.”
Gentile echoed similar sentiments.
“Replacement of the high school’s athletic field and track is critical to the health and well-being of our young people,” Gentile said. “Athletics plays a critical role in their overall development, especially during their secondary school years. I am very pleased that the state is approving these funds for the Derby High School community.”
Crisco is excited that young athletes will have top-notch facilities to play on.
“I played sports throughout high school and college, so I know how much pride students and parents take in their athletic achievements as well as their academic achievements,” said Crisco. “It’s a source of pride for the entire town, too. The kids in Derby deserve this. They’ve gone on long enough without sufficient athletic facilities, and I want to see them succeed and be happy. I think this state bonding will help accomplish that.”
Conroy said “our unified voice” including Superintendent of Schools Matt Conway, the Board of Education and Chairman Ken Marcucio and Mayor Anita Dugatto helped make the funding a reality.
“This funding will provide much needed updates to our athletic facilities, fields and programs and provide greater access for all kids and adults,” said Conway. “This will help preserve and carry on Derby’s long tradition and pride it holds for sports that spills over into every other part of a child’s life and will continue to define us as a family and what makes this family and city the great place that it is.”
A feasibility study was done in March 2015 by Blades & Goven Landscape Architects of Fairfield to determine if the fields could be outfitted with artificial turf. The project aims to increase the size of the football field to accommodate soccer games, and the track will enable home meets, which Derby High School currently is unequipped to hold.
The existing baseball field, situated off the football field, will need to be moved to make way for the new turf and track. Conway stressed that residents will be able to weigh in on potential locations during public meetings.
Officials said there are perks to having artificial turf, including its phenomenal drainage properties which would allow year-round play; the rubberized materials can outlast real grass with minimal maintenance, allowing the field to be used more than three times its current usage. Following a heavy rainstorm, the surface can be used immediately, unlike traditional grass fields that can turn into mud bowls. There is also no need to mow, fertilize or water fake turf.
There are also concerns about the rubber used in the fields. Nancy Alderman, President of Environment and Human Health, Inc., a group of physicians and public health professionals, released an advisory in 2014, stating the ground up rubber contain toxins, leading to higher cancer rates in student athletes. While the evidence hasn’t been universally accepted, the federal government, led by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, commissioned a new investigation into the issue, which is ongoing.