White Plains Sports Page

WPHS Athletic Fund proposes $7.1MM modernizing of Loucks Field.

Football, soccer, track, lacrosse, field hockey are sports served in alumni plan.

Baseball, softball facilities: no improvements scheduled for 5 years: Lynch

No parking facility planned.

School District: New Policy points way to future city school facility improvements

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SportsLine: May 15, 2001 -- WPHS

A just-formed organization of prominent White Plains High School alumni and community leaders has announced a plan to upgrade Loucks Field at White Plains High School with a $7.13 million fundraising goal to create a state-of-the-art artificial turf facility capable of staging statewide and national championships, including Olympic events.

The program was announced at a news conference held May 15 on the field.

Dan Woodard, Chairman of the WPHS Athletic Fund, Inc., the new organization, said, "It is our goal to help White Plains High School upgrade and achieve a first-class athletic facility the entire community can be proud of. Loucks Field for years has served us well, and this renovation will not only bring the athletic complex up to date, but provide many, many uses for both scholastic and civic groups for years to come."

Could attract county, state, national events

WPCNR interviewed Chuck Stogel, media contact for the Athletic Fund last week, and he told us the facility at Loucks would be modernized to the extent that WPHS could host countywide and state championships for track and football and other events by expanding the seating capacity and amenities of the stadium. Stogel said the expansion and upgrading would bring back the glory days when WPHS hosted the United States Track & Field Championships 25 years ago. He hoped to bring the Empire State Games (now being held in Kingston and Syracuse) to White Plains with such a facility.

Stogel said the drive to raise the capital would begin with "a major fundraiser" in the fall that would be announced shortly, and that the Board of Directors would be "going out making individual solicitations from lists of WPHS alumni and lists of corporate names" to raise the $7.13 million projected to execute the renovation. He expected completion of the field to be about 3 years away, "depending on how it (the fundraising) goes."

The New Loucks

The plan includes expanding the seating capacity of Loucks Field with all new bleachers on both sides of the field seating 5,000 spectators, including 500 Stadium Seats. (See architectural rendering with this article.)

The New Look Loucks: It will be home to football, soccer, lacrosse, track & Field. Planned are lights, a Field House with 4 Locker Rooms, Press Box, Concession Center with Rest Rooms. (C) 2001, The WBA Group, Inc., architects.

There will Ticket Booths and an Entrance Plaza accessible from Bryant Avenue.

The field will be furbished with lights for evening events.

A field house will be built on the East Side of the field below the bleachers, housing 4 locker rooms, 3 coaches offices, an officials room, weight room and trainer room. (No such facility exists at Loucks now, though there is a well-appointed weight room in the high school.)

A circular Concessions Stand with rest rooms is proposed for the West side of the field.

A Media Room (pressbox) is proposed for the crest of the slope that now slants down into the natural bowl of Loucks Field. The pressbox will be designed to house 40 members of the media.

A 400-meter 8 Lane synthetic surface track (which was resurfaced about 10 years ago), will be installed.

Artificial Turf to be installed.

WPCNR asked Stogel about the safety of artificial turf. Stogel said they were considering 6 different types of synthetic surface that he described as "safe, soft, and durable, and more cost-efficient." Both Stogel and Mario Scarano, Athletic Director at WPHS said there is turf now that actually looks like grass and is padded underneath, minimizing the impact on players.

Stogel said that much of the athletic injuries on turf occur in the professional sports where the athletes play at high speeds, are bigger, heavier and are playing on much older surfaces. Scarano said the new synthetic turf installed in New Canaan, Connecticut, had not lead to any more injuries that had occurred on the previous grass field. Stogel added that the Iona College had converted to turf and had not seen any increase in athlete injuries over their previous grass facilities.

Scarano said it would cost "millions to maintain a grass field" and that injuries mainly occurred because of being "hit by other kids."

Artificial turf multi-use field to be installed will not serve all sports.

The playing surface, Mr. Scarano said was convertible to stage football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, but not baseball or softball. By WPCNR estimates there could be approximately 15 home football games played a year if Varsity, JV and Stepinac football teams played home games there.

In contrast, the high school varsity baseball and softball clubs play about 20 to 24 home games combined and have to contend with poorly draining fields. The varsity baseball field has a sharply sloped outfield that is a hazard and impediment to outfielders racing for long fly balls to right center field.

Scarano said some improvements were planned for the softball and baseball fields separately. He would not mention specifics of those improvements, and referred WPCNR to Mike Lynch, Superintendent of Buildings and Facilities for the City School District.

Lynch said no improvements to the baseball or softball fields at the high school were in the 5-year plan. Lynch said there were no plans to enclose the baseball or softball fields at the high school campus with permanent fencing (a feature of most state-of-the-art facilities in Dutchess and Putnam Counties). He said "Mario might have some minor improvements planned."

WPCNR found there is a feeling in White Plains Fast Pitch (the softball booster association), that chain link dugouts will be built on the softball fields in the near future. Ted O'Donnell, softball coach, said that "Mario has done a lot for the program," pointing to a concrete operations and storage locker with power supply installed last year on the softball field and greatly enhancing the softball operation.

Lynch told WPCNR, "There are no plans to fence in (baseball or softball) fields because they are used for multiple sports (field hockey, soccer)."

Lynch reports that he is losing Field 10 by the proposed entrance of the new field for some parking for the facility, so he definitely needed to keep the baseball and softball fields that exist now for multiple use.

No new parking facility planned.

Asked about parking to handle large crowds at the "New Loucks," Mr. Scarano said there were no plans to build a separate parking structure or garage. Scarano said he expected corporate parks in the Schulman Office Park across Bryant Avenue and at IBM to the East of the stadium would handle the cars.

School District now open to private group fund-raising to upgrade facilities, other disciplines

Dr. Saul Yanofsky, Superintendent of Schools, reported present at the May 15 news conference, is supportive of the project.

This is a significant development.

The school district has a record of not being receptive to facility improvements paid for by outside organizations in the past. This is mainly due to a New York State Department of Education law that prohibits public schools from accepting corporate and commercially-branded "gifts." The school district turned down an all-purpose stadium three years ago when the Bridgeport Bluefish (a minor league baseball franchise) offered to build a minor league stadium below Loucks Field.

WPCNR asked the School District for a clarification on its acceptance of gifts from noncommercial groups, whether it was now receptive to other alumni or professional groups sponsoring improvements in District facilities.

Michelle Schoenfeld, spokesperson for the School District, said the school district will be "receptive" to endeavors such as the Loucks Field proposal, but would not "actively solicit" such collective fundraising for a specific purpose.

Chuck Stogel said that any recommendations from the Alumni Fund about Loucks Field would have to be approved by the City School District.


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