Things didn’t go according to plan during the 2022-23 school year, but the Kingston City School District (KCSD) is redoubling its efforts to ensure its athletic fields are ready for 2023-24.
Superintendent Paul Padalino last week said the KCSD will be ready for the fall sports season, with many student athletes gearing up for practice in late August. While the district was granted a reprieve when Dietz Stadium was made available for some spring sports, renovations at the venerable athletic center aren’t expected to be complete until August 2024. While much of the winter athletic season is played either indoors or on local ski slopes, school officials have enacted a plan to try and ensure its athletic fields can handle both games and practices for both the fall 2023 and spring 2024 seasons.
To help them achieve their goal, the KCSD is working with Tom Irwin Advisors, a sports field and green space service, to implement strategies to ensure its fields are safe and ready for the rigors of sports. They are also hoping to achieve greater results than they did last year.
These efforts began in the spring when Scott Vose of Tom Irwin Advisors began conducting performance testing and quantifying field characteristics like surface hardness and rotational traction at the M. Clifford Miller athletic fields. Vose, who on the Tom Irwin website describes himself as “kind of a sports turf CSI,” also conducted a volumetric water content survey and collected soil samples for chemical and physical analyses, with an eye on both creating and maintaining a better playing surface.
Miller will be the home of numerous athletic teams this fall, including field hockey, boys and girls soccer, and modified football. Chambers Elementary is also used by the school district for some athletics. Padalino said the fields will be organized by competition and practice.
“One of the most important things we’re doing is tracking our usage,” said Padalino. “We’re making sure that we’re using certain fields just for competition play, and really prioritizing our varsity athletes. JV and modified might be playing on some lesser fields, but our varsity athletes, some competitions are going to be playing on competition fields that don’t get practiced on every day, all day, all week long.”
Padalino said school officials have been working on a comprehensive listing of all practice and game fields, and what to do in case of inclement weather, all in an effort to ensure its fields don’t take a beating like they did last year.
“I think the designation of competition fields really focusing on our varsity teams using those is a big thing,” Padalino said. “We’re moving all of our bleachers over to that area: We’ve refurbished them, updated them, cleaned them, made sure they’re ready to go. Obviously it’s not a stadium setting, but there will be some stands over there. All our guys are just constantly just living at Miller Field this summer.”
Varsity and JV football is something of an outlier in KCSD athletics. They have their own practice field on the Kingston High School campus, but it’s unusable for competition. Instead, the Tigers will play their home varsity and JV football games at Rondout Valley High School.
“The practice field is not a regulation size field,” Padalino said. “It’s only 80 yards (long), so I can’t put games on that field. I wish we could, because that’s the best surface we have.”
Back at Miller, the district has been using a vertical drum spike aerator to maximize soil health, improve surface drainage, and create more seed-to-soil contact. Padalino said the district has used 150-pounds of seed, a mix of tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass, designed to create a more consistent playing surface. And they’ve used targeted off-season herbicides that wouldn’t be allowed when school is open to get the most out of the summer growth period.
Padalino said the athletic fields won’t just be ready for fall 2023, but also spring 2024, which is no mean feat given how extreme winter can be in the area; he added that efforts will be made to prevent snowmobiles and ATVs from tearing up those fields between fall and spring.
“We’re going to get the fields cleaned up for winter and then we’re going to be putting solar blankets on the fields, which will help stimulate growth throughout the winter, even when it’s not really growing season. And hopefully when we pull (the blankets) up in the spring, there will be a lot faster growth than we saw this year.”