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CASD reviews stadium renovation options

Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education held a special meeting Oct. 9 to discuss the proposed renovation of Alumni Field, 855 Walnut St.

The meeting was held in the library at Catasauqua Middle School with representatives from D’Huy Engineering - James Lynch, principal, and Lori Deutsch, director of business development - who explained the results of the feasibility study so far. Deutsch is a graduate of Catasauqua High School, Class of 1991.

Lynch noted there are several options for the renovation project, and board members can choose which level and which features they would like to update. Among the biggest changes are installing a multipurpose synthetic turf field surrounded by a six-lane Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association track.

It was noted the field could be used for football, soccer, field hockey, etc. Board member Dale Hein made sure to note considerable space is needed for the PIAA track and field throwing events such as javelin, shot put and discus.

One of the factors addressed in the feasibility study was lighting. According to Lynch, Musco Lighting performed a lumens study of the field and found the current lighting to be lower than the recommended level.

“At some point in the future, the lights will have to be replaced,” Lynch said.

He also noted the lights can be replaced without replacing the poles. This was a relief for board members because the poles are also used by cellular companies.

Lynch noted they are proposing replacing the lights with LED lights, which will be able to be adjusted, last longer and allow for energy savings.

Another factor of the study was the bleachers. It was noted the current bleachers are not fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act so they need adjustments.

Lynch reported proposed changes to the home-side bleachers include adding 24 wheelchair spaces and adjusting the space between aisles and railing and ramp upgrades. This would reduce the seating from the current 2,600 seats to 2,588.

Another change to the bleachers would be to update the press box.

There were two main options for the visitor-side bleachers, according to Lynch. They could either renovate the existing bleachers to be ADA compliant or do a full replacement.

The renovation would add wheelchair spaces in the front section, but the entrance to the bleachers would be a ramp from the back end. The full replacement would leave a smaller, fully ADA-complaint section with new foundations.

The board voted for the full replacement. They were concerned about the back entrance being a security and safety concern.

The next feature discussed was the field house. As with the visitor bleachers, Lynch explained options for a full replacement or a renovation of the existing space.

It was noted minor adjustments, such as extending one of the team rooms out toward the street area, could allow for more space. Small team rooms are one of the biggest concerns for the field house.

Hein mentioned a borough water line runs through the proposed expansion site. Lynch thanked him for the information and reported he would look into options. Lynch noted the proposed expansion could still be a possibility.

The board voted to move in the direction of renovating the space instead of doing a full replacement.

Lynch noted the next step is to have a geotechnical investigation done on the area. This will give a better picture of what the ground looks like beneath the field. From this study, plans can be made to address stormwater plans and better prevent sinkholes.

The big decisions - synthetic field, bleachers and field house - are supplemented by alternative features and additional projects such as a new scoreboard, the ticket booth, fence and gate replacement, sound system and parking and paving improvements. Lynch reported he will have various options for each project for the board to choose how they want to proceed. The board already voted to replace the scoreboard and make some changes to the ticket booth structure.

According to a rough schedule of various permits and approvals, the construction phase could begin March 2021. There was discussion about which projects to do first and how best to make use of the time line and sports scheduling.

The board members discussed the possibility of looking into partnering with community organizations to help finance the project.

Lehigh Valley Health Network already has a 12-year contract with the school district. LVHN provides training services for the athletes in the district as well as trainers. The contract included assistance from LVHN for the Alumni Field renovation project. The agreement will help with more than $1 million in funding.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Robert Zakos, a Catasauqua resident and CHS alumnus, asked why the board decided to move forward with an artificial field instead of using the natural grass.

Spengler noted the field is in bad condition and needs to be redone anyway. Since the entire stadium facility, not just the field, needed updating, it made more sense to replace the field with turf, according to Spengler.

Thomas Moll, director of student activities, agreed, saying the field has deteriorated and having a hardier field made of synthetic turf would allow for more longevity, especially if being used by multiple sports.

Deutsch reported the average field has approximately 37 playing days on the grass before dying and becoming thatch. Moll also mentioned the sprinkler system under the field is broken and would be of no use in rejuvenating the grass field.

Lynch noted the weather plays a factor, and it is safer and generally preferred by the athletes to play on a turf field over a natural field during rainy games.

“The number of events happening on these fields has grown,” Lynch said when describing why most school districts are changing to turf fields.

The school board will hear from Brad Remig, managing director at PFM Financial Advisors LLC, regarding bonds and financial options during the Nov. 12 meeting, planned for 7 p.m. at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, 4500 Education Park, Schnecksville.