Dryden votes in favor of new athletic turf field

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Dryden Central School District’s capital improvement project has been ongoing since its approval in 2017. Included in the original plans were new softball and baseball fields, a renovated gym, a new track and LED lighting for the football field. However, Volante Field itself was not to be improved, as it would have added $3 million to the project.

Dryden did not give up on the possibility of a turf football field, though.

Utilizing reserve funds rather than taxes, they made it so that taxpayers would not have to put a penny toward the $3 million project. The final step was to have the community approve the turf makeover.

On Dec. 10, Dryden did just that, with 63% of voters in favor of the turf field. A key part of getting that approval was the lack of taxation, and Dryden athletic director Todd Kwiatkowski explained how the reserve funding came to be.

“We started a reserve fund account years ago,” Kwiatkowski said. “Whenever you pay less in electricity than you budgeted for, fuel costs, BOCES, the difference goes into a reserve fund. The reserve fund had built up to a certain amount, and eventually, you have to use it.”

Earlier this year, when discussing the other improvements going on in Dryden, Kwiatkowski expressed his disappointment that a turf field wasn’t part of the project. Following the vote, that disappointment has turned to excitement.

“I was cautiously optimistic from talking to people,” Kwiatkowski said. “A lot of people had positive things to say about it and were for it. … I wasn’t shocked that it passed; I was relieved that it passed. Now, we can get on to the next phase.”

When that next phase will occur is unknown. Right now, summer is the target to get things started, but there is no specific month in mind.

“They haven’t put it out to bid yet,” Kwiatkowski said. “They have to get that bid process started, and once that gets started, we’ll have a better idea when they can actually start. We have two home track meets this year, one in March and one in mid-April. It wouldn’t be until after we get those in. With building projects, you can never predict because the contracting world is unpredictable.”

For now, the excitement is spreading through the district.

“Everyone’s happy about it,” Kwiatkowski said. “All the students I’ve talked to are excited to have it. The current juniors are hoping they’ll get to play on it next year. I’m hoping it will be ready by the fall season.”

Dryden athletes have played home games at several fields in the town while improvements are made, so to have a turf field at the high school will be a great relief.

“It makes everything easier,” Kwiatkowski said. “You’re talking all the varsity soccer games being played on there, all the varsity football, modified football, modified soccer, JV soccer. I’m excited about that. We were so dependent on the weather for football because you’d have to line the field. Ever try to line a field in the rain? Can’t do it.”

Not only is it easier schedule-wise, but financially, it’s much more viable in the long term than a grass field.

“I don’t even want to take a guess on how much it was for us to mow and maintain [the grass field],” Kwiatkowski said. “That was just mowing and maintaining it. The man hours you put into lining the field. The man hours you put into repairing the field. Our irrigation system wasn’t working and would’ve had to be redone. That field was put in in 2002, I believe. It’s lived its life. That field is a mess. We would have had to dig it up and put in a new grass field.”

Additionally, it’s simply safer for the athletes. Kwiatkowski explained that the grass field had an uneven playing surface, saying, “there wasn’t a smooth spot on that field.” That’s something that Dryden won’t have to be concerned with anymore, and that’s much easier on the ankles of players.

He also touched on the possibility of hosting youth tournaments on the new field, and the economic boost it would bring to the community. Speaking from personal experience, Kwiatkowski said his family always utilized local businesses when traveling to tournaments. A high quality field can bring that effect to Dryden.

With all these positives in mind and the lack of a tax increase, Kwiatkowski said he’s unsure as to why 37% of voters declined the installment of the turf field.

“I don’t know,” Kwiatkowski said. “There are misconceptions out there. Some people believe it won’t be a zero tax increase for them, which it is. There were articles in the past that claimed turf causes cancer, which is totally untrue.”

At the end of the day, Dryden will be home to a turf field that will be a positive in many different areas. Kwiatkowski believes it’s only a matter of time until smaller schools start installing turf fields, and they are ahead of the curve.

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