Revson Baseball Field has been called a lot of things — many of which cannot appear in print — but rarely has it been called “beautiful.” But that’s just what First Selectman Gayle Weinstein called it when she got a look at it last week.
“I’m so excited. It’s looking beautiful!” she said. “The infield looks amazing” and “the irrigation system actually works,” Ms. Weinstein said.
By Monday of this week, much of the varsity field at Revson was completed, with just some details left to complete. This is no small matter for a project that has been ongoing — and has faced ongoing hurdles — for more than seven years.
Ms. Weinstein said the infield was “re-renovated” by Dennis Brolin of Sports Turf Specialists, who replaced substandard clay; the irrigation system was “re-completed” last week by National Irrigation, which replaced damaged pipes with new, correctly sized ones; and Frank Peloso of Peloso and Sons fixed the sod, after lifting a 40×40 section, removing rocks and replacing topsoil, and leveling the area.
Ms. Weinstein said there are still some small divots to be filled on the outfield and some hydroseeding to be done, and the sod has to rest for several weeks to allow it to take root before the field can be played on.
The remediation work took just a few weeks, after nearly a year of missteps and inactivity by the contractor, Aqua-Turf, at the problem-plagued field. But the latest renovation efforts are just the latest in a long line of attempts to make safely playable a field that most agree was never properly built to begin with.
The baseball field was constructed just north of Weston Middle School during the $80-million school building project (which included building the intermediate school, renovating and adding to the high school, and constructing Morehouse Farm Park playing fields). A ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening Revson took place in 2005.
It has been plagued with drainage problems ever since, problems that seemed to grow exponentially every time the town tried to fix the field.
An initial study done in 2006 showed drainage problems were caused primarily by compaction of the topsoil and low permeability of the subsoil, likely caused by heavy equipment on the field during the school construction. It was estimated at that time it would cost anywhere from $500,000 to upward of $1.2 million to completely tear up and replace the soil and the irrigation system and to properly regrade Revson Field.
The town tried desperately to avoid the cost of entirely re-engineering the field, as well as the inconvenience of closing the field for a year or more.
Over the years, the town has tried slowly mixing in new topsoil with the old; aerating and reseeding; using “shatter penetration” to break up the topsoil and then reseeding by injection; and adding more topsoil and clay.
Field of glass
At one point, in 2008, the town discovered that some of the topsoil that had been dumped on the field included dangerous shards of glass and other debris.
The soil was eventually raked to remove debris, but the fracturing and aeration provided only temporary improvements. Drainage problems remained.
The town tried for the next several years to make improvements to the pitch of the field and to replace some of the drains.
But the baseball community cried foul and asked the town to come up with a long-term, realistic solution.
Last summer, it looked like the town had finally devised that solution. With the help of a STEAP (Small Town Economic Assistance Program) grant, the town devised a plan to renovate the infield, replace sod, clay, and loam, improve drainage and irrigation in the outfield, and repitch the field — for both the varsity and junior varsity fields.
The latest project got off to a bumpy start. The original project overseer withdrew and initial bids were scrapped so the project could be rebid to include a topographical elevation plan in the bid specifications.
Engineering consultants Milone and MacBroom were hired to oversee the project and Aqua-Turf of Orange, headed by Marc D’Andrea, was hired last July to do the work.
But heavy rains in the summer delayed the start of the project — which was originally expected to take four weeks — until late August. Then Tropical Storm Irene hit. There were sunny stretches in the fall, but they were interspersed with heavy downpours that often made it inadvisable to drive equipment on the already compacted field.
But the mild winter made town officials question why work wasn’t progressing more quickly. At one point, the lack of activity had the Board of Selectmen considering replacing Aqua-Turf with a new contractor. It stuck with Mr. D’Andrea, however, citing concerns about accountability.
But the project continued to stall, with little progress being made throughout the spring. Problems with the irrigation system were not fixed to the town’s satisfaction and it was discovered the contractor had installed the wrong kind of clay.
Earlier this month, after Mr. D’Andrea and Aqua-Turf failed to meet a deadline to complete punch list items, the town declared the contractor had “abandoned” the project.
This allowed the town to hire several new people to come in and replace the clay, reinstall an adequate irrigation system, and properly resod the field.
Most of this work was essentially completed last week, with just some “nitty gritty details” still to be done on the varsity field, according to First Selectman Weinstein.
After being updated about the positive changes at last Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Dennis Tracey praised the first selectman and the town administrator. “It’s been a lot of effort, and you and Tom [Landry] have done a great job pulling it back together from the brink of disaster,” Mr. Tracey said.
“At the end of the day, once Aqua-Turf was off the project, we were able to make significant progress,” Ms. Weinstein said earlier this week.