Vote yes on Propositions 3 and 4

To the editor:

Opponents of Propositions 3 and 4 on the Saranac Lake Central School District budget ballot point to participant safety as a primary reason for not supporting the artificial turf initiative. Citing NFL teams that have switched from a synthetic surface to natural grass, I wonder if they realize that all NFL organizations have robust maintenance budgets, replace their sod fields at least once per season and that many do so multiple times?

I would be all for keeping natural fields for our athletes if we could also replace the fields annually. The simple reality, however, is no school district such as ours has the means or manpower to replace sod fields let alone give them the attention that the NFL does.

Limited resources and overtaxed fields are the perfect storm for poor conditions, particularly since Saranac Lake has arguably the worst weather in the lower 48 states. Extended shoulder seasons prevent spring teams from getting on field weeks before schools in the Champlain and St. Lawrence valleys and there is little chance of fields drying out in October once the temperature begins to drop and the sun retreats in advance of the winter season. Often our lacrosse teams will play their first games of the season having never practiced outside. It is difficult to appropriately condition athletes to the rigors of a contact sport if they haven’t had the opportunity to prepare outside the confines of a high school gym.

In late fall, there is often standing water, ubiquitous mud and grass that lacks any integrity when it comes to starts, stops, cuts and accelerations. In such conditions, pulled muscles and twisted joints are not uncommon. Imagine having your season cut short by an injury caused not by an opponent, rather an over-saturated field. Look at the creases of lacrosse and soccer goals or between the hashes of a football field during a rainy season and it is clear that the surfaces are less than safe. One can only imagine how conditions really deteriorate once the light snows of late October begin to fall.

It’s not just weather that brings about unsafe playing conditions. Annual geese migrations litter our fields with feces, despite our district’s best efforts at mitigation. You haven’t really lived until you touch your face and realize you’ve just smeared goose poop on your chin after having caught a football. There are times when teams don’t even go to the ground in practice because of the droppings. Between the obvious health concerns with playing in fowl feces and the limitations they impose on basic fundamentals of the game, our grass fields can pose significant safety hazards for our athletes and coaches. Furthermore, if I truly felt that artificial turf was a danger to myself or the athletes I coach, I would not expose us to said surfaces. The truth is our district has been busing athletes to synthetic turf fields for over 20 years and I have never heard player safety voiced by concerned citizens regarding away facilities.

The community of Saranac Lake has a tremendous opportunity to create a state of the art facility as the centerpiece of its campus that will provide a safe surface for its athletes during mud season which realistically extends for weeks on end in early spring and late fall.

Please vote yes on the SLCSD budget and Propositions 3 and 4 on May 21 at the Saranac Lake High School auditorium.

Eric Bennett

Saranac Lake


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