When Rich Silverstein came to the Kingston City School District (KCSD) in 2017 to serve as its Director of Physical Education, Health and Athletics, he felt it was important to take a look at the various athletic venues used by its teams and gym classes.
“A little over four years ago we sat down and thought, what are we doing for our infrastructure?” Silverstein said. “What are we doing to take care of all of our different athletic venues so that we can get some longevity? If you take care of your snowblower, and you get it cleaned and take the oil and gasoline out every year and clean the filters, you’re going to get some longevity out of it.”
Silverstein was speaking during a meeting of the KCSD Board of Education held on Wednesday, November 17 where he joined with Director of Buildings and Grounds Tom Clapper to discuss some of the upgrades and regular maintenance performed on the district’s athletic facilities and fields over the past four years.
“It’s a collaboration,” Clapper said. “We work together with all the other parts and pieces of the district, including athletics…We work very hard to keep our fields in good shape.”
Silverstein explained that the district’s facilities are in almost constant use.
“Seven days a week our athletic venues are being used mornings, afternoons and evenings,” he said. “In the fall and spring we average anywhere from 700-to-1000 using our facilities every day. And that’s not (just) Dietz Stadium. That’s all of our grass, all of our different athletic venues, baseball fields, soccer fields, lacrosse fields. We are in use all the time.”
Silverstein and Clapper outlined some of the various renovations and improvements some of those facilities have seen in recent years.
Starting in 2019, Kingston High School has had new gym and parking lot light pole banners installed; the addition of a turf field; purchase of football hitting sleds and chutes; and upgrades to make the tennis courts usable, including the installation of wind screens. Silverstein said work on the latter has brought the tennis program back to Kingston High School.
“We were at a point a few years ago where we could not use our tennis courts,” Silverstein said. “We were at Forsyth Park for all of our tennis program, and we have now an upgraded tennis facility.”
The district also completed work on the Burke Softball Complex, a new series of fields at Chambers Elementary that replace the former Burke field across the street from M. Clifford Miller Middle School.
“My first year we had a postseason softball game scheduled for there and we couldn’t play because the ground was too soft, it rained two or three days prior,” Silverstein said. “Mr. Clapper and I, after looking at our properties we went over to Chambers fields, the little league fields, and we have upgraded all of those fields and now we’ve turned that into the Burke Softball Complex.”
The Burke Softball Complex has fields dedicated to the varsity, JV and modified programs, with each undergoing upgrades, including new benches, backstops, and wind screens. Other improvements include renovation of a snack bar, and on the varsity field a new scoreboard and sound system.
While the Burke Complex has moved from Miller, the middle school has retained its soccer and lacrosse fields, and beginning in 2018 they underwent the start of improving the grass on each of the three fields, which will be rolled around this year with a new roller. New soccer and lacrosse goals, drinking stations and backstop netting are also in place.
A JV baseball field is also staying at Miller, with backstop fencing replacement and a shaped infield.
The Gruner baseball field in Lake Katrine is still in the process of a complete renovation, with carbon nets and backstop netting installed throughout, upgrades to warmup pitchers’ mounds and batting cages, and various other renovations to make the field more accommodating to players and spectators alike.
Winter blankets on the grass
Outdoor fields across the district will also have winter blankets designed to help the fields survive the sometimes brutal stretch between the fall and spring seasons.
“Winter blankets are the new norm for athletic venues,” Silverstein said. “We’ve put winter blankets on all of our outfields as well as our soccer fields so now we can stimulate growth during the winter time, and when we’ve pulled off those blankets the fields are in great shape.”
Dietz Stadium, which the district co-owns with the City of Kingston, is due to undergo a yearlong renovation beginning in November 2022, a period during which the district will have to relocate all of the sports usually played there. These include varsity football, field hockey, lacrosse, and track and field events.
That renovation will also see the district store many of its upgrades put in place since 2020, including new soccer, lacrosse and field hockey goals, new long and triple-lump pit covers, new betting for discus and shot put cages, a new pole vault pit, and other equipment.
“We have about a year left of utilizing Dietz Stadium before the major renovation,” Silverstein said.
Silverstein said that the improvements have been designed with the guidance of an athletic council of between 12-15 coaches, teachers, custodians and maintenance employees.
“We meet often and we talk about how we can upgrade and continue to upgrade our athletic facilities and program,” Silverstein said. “They’re my guide.”