A local youth sports league has drafted a petition asking the Liverpool Central School District to reconsider its policy regarding removing snow from the turf field at the high school.
The Liverpool Youth Lacrosse Association (LYLA), led by Liverpool resident Earl Hall, posted the petition on GoPetition.com. They seek to get 1,000 signatures by the end of July in an effort to encourage the district to remove snow from the turf rather than letting it melt on its own.
“The problem was that the district signed a contract with the manufacturer that extended the warranty from eight years to 10, with the understanding that the district cannot remove snow from the field or they would void the warranty,” Hall said. “Spring practices for the lacrosse teams start March 10. We were told the teams would be able to utilize those fields. [Instead], the field turf sits there and can’t be utilized because there’s snow and ice on it. We have to just wait for nature to melt it.”
Hall has long been active in Liverpool sports. A 1985 graduate of LHS, he played lacrosse under Kerry Quilty, who is now serving as interim athletic director. Hall then went on to play at Syracuse University, where he was part of the teams that won two national championships in 1988 and 1989. He and his wife, Colleen, an elementary school teacher in the district, moved back to Liverpool to raise their two daughters, and Hall’s passion for the sport continued. He became a coach with the LYLA and was asked to take over as executive director about five years ago. LYLA includes more than 300 athletes, both male and female, making it the largest league in the region. It partners with the school district to provide an education in the sport, using Liverpool’s facilities for its games and practices.
But neither the LYLA athletes nor student athletes at LHS can access the field when their season starts.
“The problem was that the district signed a contract with the manufacturer that extended the warranty from eight years to 10, with the understanding that the district cannot remove snow from the field or they would void the warranty,” Hall said.
The Star-Review has requested a copy of the warranty documentation from the district but had not yet received it at press time. However, in an email to Hall, Superintendent Mark Potter confirmed his statement.
“If you remember back when we put the turf in, we signed an agreement with [field manufacturer] A-Turf that indicated they would extend the original warranty from eight years to 10 years if we agreed not to plow the field,” Potter wrote. “They will not warranty the field beyond eight years and will not warranty any potential damage caused by plowing.”
But Hall said numerous other facilities are plowed safely. He pointed to the West Genesee and Syracuse City school districts, as well as Onondaga Community College and SUNY Morrisville.
“What we would like to see done is for them to modify the extended warranty to allow the safe removal of snow from the field turf, pursuant to industry standards used by other local school districts,” he said. Those standards include the use of a retrofitted plow blade or a piece of PVC piping along the base of the blade to prevent damage to the field. Schools can also put down a rain tarp as soon as snow begins to fall and use high-powered blowers on the tarp.
In addition to allowing the students access to the field earlier, allowing the district to remove snow would be an economically sound move, Hall said.
“The girls’ varsity team has been scheduled to host scrimmages the last two years,” Hall said, “but the field wasn’t playable, so those scrimmages were rescheduled to OCC. So the district has to pay a bus driver and all of the expenses associated with transporting the students there, as well as a fee to OCC to use the field.”
If the district were to remove the snow on its field, those costs would be saved.
“From a cost-benefit point of view, I’m not sure if this policy is fiscally prudent,” he said.
Hall emphasized that his concern was based not on his own athletes, but on those who play for LHS.
“This is not about our youth league,” he said. “It won’t affect us, because we don’t start outdoor practices until the third week in April. This is for those students at the high school level. Someday, our players will be in that league, and most of the players adversely affected now are former players of ours. They’re being affected by not being able to use the field.”
Instead, Hall said, lacrosse athletes started the spring practicing either in the gymnasium or in the high school’s parking lot, neither of which are ideal for the sport.
“It’s meant to be played on grass or turf,” Hall said, “not a parking lot with loose cinders on the ground.”
That issue raised a number of safety concerns, Hall said.
“I don’t know that the helmet manufacturers have factored in that student athletes may be practicing on pavement or on the gym floor,” he said. “The turf has to be compliant in terms of concussions. If a head hits the turf, it’s not going to be the same as if it hits pavement or the gym floor.”
Hall said he served on the Stadium Committee that sought to address problems with the old turf field.
“It was never brought up during the committee meetings that the field wouldn’t be plowed,” he said. “We never discussed that. We were told it could be used for the spring season starts.”
In an effort to effect change, Hall said he asked the district to reconsider its position.
“I originally approached the district in early March on this matter, and I got a response back advising that they can’t plow the field because of the warranty,” he said.
Hall then wrote a letter to the board to ask them to amend the policy, but received no response. So he decided to try the petition. But if the board still declined to take action, he said he would drop the matter.
“There may come a time when we agree to disagree. That’s okay as long as the whole process takes place,” he said. “I thought maybe if we could get a thousand signatures by the end of July, and we present that to Mark Potter to give to the board, maybe that would be meaningful. If not, there are no more options to explore, and that’s the end of it.”
Hall wanted people to be aware that his efforts were not meant to reflect badly on the district.
“There’s no ill will here, no animosity,” Hall said. “They allow us to use their facilities and fields. They’re great community partners. I want to make it clear — we’re just trying to do something in a civil manner and to see if they would reconsider the position they’ve taken over the last number of years. The last thing I want to do is alienate anybody. This is the only means we have to civilly do something in an effort to encourage change.”
Hall is hopeful that the voice of the community will help to encourage that change.
“The turf is terrific for the climate we live in. That’s why everyone has it,” Hall said. “It makes no sense having it if you can’t use it.”
To view the petition, visit GoPetition.com/petitions/remove-snow-from-liverpool-high-school-turf-field.html.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.