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Opinions Diverge as School Board, Borough Council Discuss Memorial Field

by on October 08, 2012 11:00 PM

Not yet ready to debate and vote on action to be taken regarding Memorial Field, the State College Area School Board discussed options and expressed strong opinions over what to do.

The only outdoor, lit, spectator, competition-level venue has been sitting over a sinkhole since it was constructed. The primary athletics facility for the State College Area School District in its entirety is in dire need of renovations, now more than ever after the east bleachers closing for safety reasons last week.

Ed Poprik, Director of Operations presented options for Memorial Field moving forward – one being separating the maroon section of the bleachers from the gray section of the bleachers and continuing use of the gray bleachers – the west side – for the final two home games.

Board member Jim Pawelczyk said he doesn't want to continue to see changes made to the field on an interim basis only, as has been the trend in past years.

"Let's deconstruct them, let's get after this," Pawelczyk said. Later, he told the board he hoped to see answers in six weeks and said he believes major changes should be made.

"It's a dying facility," Pawelczyk said.

Dorothea Stahl pointed out that while the field is used for all sports, the timeline was set based on the high school varsity football team's season. With only two home football games left, she suggested going back to the original schematic design and making the necessary changes to Memorial Field in its entirety.

"We'd move forward knowing, absolutely, as a board to move it from phase one to just renovating Memorial Field," Stahl said.

Other proposed changes include moving the east bleachers, creating a new "Master Plan" for the field, moving the stadium to a new site and considering a sale of the property and redirecting the flow of water so it can't flow into the sinkhole.

The sinkhole is not new. Since the school board purchased the property where Memorial Field now sits in 1914, the sinkhole has existed. The problem is that during high-intensity storms, the sinkhole retains accepts water – for the most part, Poprik said – successfully, but sometimes, the result is a flooded field.

"The remarkable thing about the sinkhole is it does a remarkable job of draining the storm water," Poprik said.

The board's regular meeting started out as standing room only and two members of the community addressed the board regarding Memorial Field. One wanted to see the field repaired and retained while another questioned whether it would be a better idea to look into other venues.

Penni Fishbaine said she would like to see every taxpayer in the school district fill out a survey and give their opinion on what should be done to the field in lieu of the same interim processes.

"We want to send a message that we want to do it thoroughly and we want to do it right this time," Fishbaine said.

Meanwhile, members of the State College Borough Council expressed their disappointment over even the idea of losing Memorial Field at a work session on Monday night.

Public Works Director Mark Whitfield presented the update to members of Council.

"I believe the sinkhole needs to be stabilizied one way or another," Whitfield said. "The next phase of this really needs to be to remove the bleachers, find out where the bedrock is and clean the void area out – that is it in a very short nustshell."

Council member Tom Daubert said he wants to see Council help the school, as he believes they should have done years ago. Daubert suggested contributing the funds the school district needs – whatever it takes, he said – to fix the situation.

"Give them several hundred thousand dollars, I don't care ... keep that field there no matter what it has to take to keep the field there," Daubert said.

More discussion by the board and Council will be held during future meetings to be determined.

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Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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