The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hub Stine situation calls for closer look

Rendering of Hub Stine proposal. See Maria's original (large)
image post here, along with explanations.

Nothing in Plainfield is ever simple. Sigh.

Take the developing fuss over the proposed changes at Hub Stine Field (see the proposed plan posted by Maria and linked to above).

Everyone has questions. Everyone has criticisms (evidently including the Board of Ed, which had approved the project months ago). Everyone has suggestions.

I must admit I am not naturally inclined to be disposed toward artificial turf, and was opposed to a half-baked proposal that was floated before the City Council by the Rec Division a year or two ago for a city field (money was part of the issue there).

However, I have rethought the question in the light of watching how the soccer fields between Stelle Avenue and Randolph Road in the county's Cedar Brook Park have become dirt patches -- either dust bowls when dry, or muddy lakes that makes the fields unusable for a week or more after a rainfall. Artificial turf seems like a natural solution in cases of overplay driven by community demand.

Hub Stine does not appear to suffer from overplaying (far as I know), but the plan appears to contemplate even more intense use of this community resource -- for which artificial turf may be a defensible proposal.

Maria is to be thanked by everyone for doing the homework to find the trail of Board involvement with (and approval of) the project, as well as providing a link to the audio of the recent Board meeting at which the project was discussed (see here).

Neither the Board of Ed nor the Administration come off looking too good in the matter.

How could the glorious Grand Slammers not even remember that they had discussed -- and voted on -- the project previously? And where were all their questions then?

As for the Administration, is seems to boil down to a question of communication. Was the Board not kept in the loop? If the scope changed, didn't anyone on the Board review it before plans moved along?

The plan that Maria has posted is a considerable reworking of the existing fields. And although things seem quite 'tight', the complex includes enough track and field improvements to make Plainfield an attractive location for larger-scale competitions. That wouldn't be a bad thing, by my lights.

But there are many stakeholders besides the Grand Slammers and they seem not to have been taken into account. And now, at the last minute before work is to begin, they raise their voices and questions.

And the Board is ... surprised?

Let the conversation, late as it is, continue.

I am impressed by the detail of the plan -- not least because it finally shows a little sensitivity to the cultural shift taking place in Plainfield by including soccer fields. (Unless you've been living under a rock, you will have noticed that on weekends soccer engages more people than any other sports activity in Plainfield -- literally hundreds. About time it got some 'official' attention.)

We'll survive this one, even if some stakeholders are incovenienced. Even if it doesn't make the District's administration look like great communicators.

Even if the vaunted Grand Slammers show themselves to be at heart a wiffle-ball team.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...


Yes, we wil survive this one too! But just one thought on synthetic turf and soccer: the life expectancy of synthetic turf is tied to use; soccer is widely and increasingly played more not less; then there is the fact that synthetic turf gets hot, really hot, to the point that dehydration might happen and if heat is extreme, as it might be during summer, the fields get too hot to be utilized. Check this NYC study on synthetic turf and how the city is acting on sports fields:

And, no need to thank me. It is always fun to be able to track issues despite my constant memory lapses :-)

Anonymous said...

The plan Looks great to me.....but I am big on sports!!!

Bob said...

Please do not use the soccer fields between Stelle Ave. and Randolph Road as an example of needing artificial turf. That is not comparing apples to apples. That area is barren because of several factors. First we have constant flooding, Hub Stein doesn't have to worry about that, second is extreme overuse. During nice weather that field is used nearly from dawn to dusk. Hub Stein doesn't get that kind of extreme overuse. I think that using that field as an excuse for artificial turf is invalid. If we had fake grass in the field near the high school, we'd have no more than a messy, muddy rug that is even more dangerous than artificial turf tends to be.

Bob Bolmer

Anonymous said...

I actually like the idea of the turf as it does lead to a more durable field and would open the field up to more community use not less. However, the biggest concern on my part is the fact that the rumored funds that are being discussed are the 22 million sent back from the state. Increased social services and more teachers to lower the class sizes to the levels seen during Abbott would have a measurable impact on student achievement. Scores were actually on the rise in the early 2000-2003 era due to reduced class size and more conferencing time with students during the day. This, with 22 million in the discussion, could have a significant impact. This is not a "vent", this is one long time Plainfield educators honest and studied opinion.

Anonymous said...

Shockingly, I agree with Bob. But take the comparison one step further.
Since this is a PSS project I assume they have control over the Hub Stine fields' use. There's no way they are going to spend millions of dollars and then generously declare the soccer fields open for community wear and tear, any more than a bunch of guys can now decide to play football at the stadium on Sunday mornings. So the muddy tract south of the high school and the field at Milt Campbell park will remain the venues of choice for the largely Latino soccer matches.
The logic for the turf fields is twofold: first, our student-athletes need extended hours to get better as teams and develop as individual players; second, we have to make our facilities equal to those of surrounding towns to create pride in our town and improve our external image.
There are many types of synthetic turf, and many ways of installing it. Before we reject the idea over overheating and injuries let's know the facts about exactly what it is that what we are buying. Maybe we can actually have a public dialog with Scotch Plains or, heaven forbid, Westfield, both of whom have constantly busy artificial turf fields.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Plainfield! Welcome to the 21st century! It's about time we truly started addressing the recreation needs of the community as it relates to facilities.