MARBLEHEAD — A nonprofit group has raised nearly $300,000 in pledges toward its goal of $1.3 million to install an artificial turf field at Marblehead High School.
Steve Maxwell, who helped create the Marblehead All-Sports Foundation, thinks the time has come to replace the grass at Piper Field. Built on ledge and rock over 10 years ago, the grass field has poor drainage, leaving large pools of water along sidelines and on the field itself after it rains. It is used about 160 hours a year for football, lacrosse, and soccer games and needs days to recover after being used, said Mark Tarmey, Marblehead athletic director.
Maxwell and Tarmey, who are board members of the new sports foundation, said an artificial turf field would require little maintenance, and would allow youth sports organizations to use the field about 2,500 hours a year, more than 15 times the amount the grass field is being used.
“Beyond having a showcase game field, it gives us another playing field for youth sports,’’ said Maxwell. “We’re fairly strapped right now for youth infields in town.” He is optimistic the foundation can raise the money by the end of the spring, have the field installed during the summer, and see it ready for fall sports.
Artificial turf is becoming increasingly popular at local schools, and has been installed in Melrose, Manchester, Lynn, Reading, North Reading, and Burlington. The synthetic, carpet-like surfaces resemble grass, and the artificial grass blades are woven onto a base made of sand or rubber that provides stability.
To date, there is no opposition to the field and the fund-raising has the backing of Superintendent Gregory Maass. Nationally, proponents point to low maintenance costs, a surface that requires no water or pesticides, and increased hours of exercise for area residents.
Opponents say the fields heat up in the summer, making them too hot to play on, and also point to potentially dangerous chemical compounds in the synthetic field, such as zinc and arsenic.
Tarmey said he’s always concerned about concussions, but he said most concussions come from head to body contact.
For years, players, coaches, and fans have noticed brackish surface water along the visiting sidelines of the grass field, and within the 20-yard-line on each end of the field. Two years ago, Marblehead residents rejected a Proposition 2½ override to have the public pay for a new field. In 2011, after heavy rains, Tarmey and a group of volunteers brought pumps to the field to remove the surface water in order to play two games in November, including the Marblehead-Swampscott Thanksgiving game.
The idea of a new athletic field was briefly raised last spring, when producers from Adam Sandler’s film “Grown Ups 2” proposed using the field in the film. The proposal, which called for the town to receive $125,000 for the film crew’s right to dig up the field and temporarily replace it with a pool and tennis court, was shelved after parents and athletes objected. Still, it got people like Maxwell thinking about a new field that could be used nearly year-round.
“We have a project here where the level of enthusiasm has been significant,” said Settelmeyer. “We’ve identified a sufficient number of potential donors and we feel comfortable that we’ll get to $1.3 million over the next four to six months.”
Maxwell said the proposed new field would last 10 to 12 years. Funds for maintaining the field would come from a $10 fee from each participant in town youth and adult sports organizations.
The nonprofit also has high hopes for other sports facility improvement projects in town, and in the future wants to add a new track at Hopkins Field, lights at the outdoor Bud Orne Rink, and a turf field at the Lower Village Field.