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Marblehead sports foundation to host fundraiser for town's first turf field

Posted by Terri Ogan  April 23, 2013 02:00 PM

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In an effort to raise money for Marblehead's first synthetic turf athletic field, the Marblehead All Sports Foundation is hosting a fundraising event to boost the income in its "Turf's Up!" campaign.

The event will be held at Abbott Hall on Saturday April 27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Attendees can enjoy live music from local band Better than Nothing, a cash bar and live auction items.

Money raised will go towards the construction for the new synthetic turf on Piper Field, located on Humphrey Street behind the high school.

"I think it [the fundraising] has gone remarkably well," said Steven Maxwell, a Massachusetts All Sports Foundation board member. "We had a very aggressive time schedule for this and to be where we are exceeds our expectations. We have a lot of work to do in the next two months but we're cautiously optimistic we're going to reach this goal."

The foundation, which was created last June, aims to provide privately raised funds for much needed improvements to the town's fields and related athletic infrastructure, according to an announcement submitted to the Globe by the Marblehead All Sports Foundation in December.

The committee's fundraising goal for the field was marked at $1.3 million. Thus far, the board, which is made up of members of the community including leaders of youth sport organizations, educators, and representatives of the local government, has raised a little under $600,000.

Maxwell said that the committee has yet to obtain an actual construction estimate, therefore might not need the entire $1.3 million.

But a new field, Maxwell said, is crucial.

"Conditions have gotten progressively worse," Maxwell said. "In general, there are huge benefits to turf fields. That field was used for games only at the high school. We'll now have a field to use any time, for any sport. You can do soccer, lacrosse and football even on the weekends, which was never able to be done on that field before."

Marblehead High School Athletic Director Mark Tarmey can attest to the poor condition of the field, which is partly caused by harsh weather conditions.

"We've had a lot of games that have been postponed and cancelled," Tarmey said. "We're swapping home games with other towns and it requires us to play too many games in one week and we have to reschedule, and reschedule, and reschedule, and it's not fair to the kids."

Tarmey added that with the current standard grass field, high school athletes and other town programs as well can only use the field for roughly 160 hours out of the school year. With a new synthetic turf field, he said, the town could get 2,000 hours worth of use.

Right now Piper Field is only used for varsity sports games. All high school teams, including junior varsity and freshman teams, play on another field behind the high school, and fields at the Village School and Veterans Middle School, some of which are also in poor condition and not regulation size, according to national and state standards.

Benefits of having a turf field include an ability for sports teams to play much longer seasons, causing little to no wear and tear on the field.

It can also strengthen and increase the chances of athletes graduating from high school and playing on collegiate teams.

"Most college field hockey programs play on artificial surface," Tarmey said. "We've had a very strong field hockey team in the years, but they play on grass. When a college scout comes they need to recruit someone who plays on turf. It's two different games."

There is also far less maintenance on a turf field. Typically a machine sweeps the field every couple of weeks to bring the bristles back up right, Maxwell said. "It's going to be a huge benefit for the town."

Construction is estimated to start in June and will take up to three months, just in time for fall sports to start.

Thus far Maxwell, who checks the Event Brite application on his phone every 20 minutes, said 375 tickets have been sold so far for the fundraiser. The venue capacity is 600.

"We sold close to 50 tickets yesterday, about 20 today, and expect a lot of people to walk in," Maxwell said. "I think it's going to be a very well-attended event."

Tickets to Saturday's fundraising event are going for $25, and can be purchased at this website.

Terri Ogan can be reached at oganglobe@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter.

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