South Windsor High School Athletic Fields

For those of you who do not have high school athletes in your family, you may not be aware of the issues associated with the 2 newer all-purpose fields on the north end of the high school campus along Ayers Road. You likewise may have been somewhat surprised to see them completely torn up this spring. Quite understandable, as one driving by the fields would have seen what appeared to be 2 very healthy natural turf athletic fields.
Field work machines and tools
Turf Issues
From a distance that seemed to be the case, but upon entering the fields one might as well be walking on an enormous saturated sponge. After nearly 2 years of multiple attempts to improve a severe drainage problem, including aggressive de-thatching, deep tine aeration, and ground fracturing, we felt it necessary to take the more drastic last resort approach of removing all of the sod on the playing surface.

Sod Problems
Following numerous tests, both internally and with external laboratories it was confirmed that the sod was just not performing properly and more times than not we found it necessary to close the fields to play due to the standing water and subsequent unsafe playing conditions. This became a necessary practice, but unacceptable in accommodating the large number high school athletic teams needing field space.

Closing the Fields
To get a jump start on the improvements and to maximize growing time, as soon as the spring sports season permitted, we closed the all-purpose fields and began renovation work to correct the serious drainage problems. The fine folks at Liberty Landscaping/Athletic Field Contractor (Liberty) have truly stepped up to the plate to partner and cost-share with us to complete this necessary improvement.
Renovation Action Steps
Action Steps to date include:
  • We met with turf expert Bill Dest (known in this region as “Dr. Dirt”) from UConn on May 16th to inspect the playing fields and take soil samples for pH lab testing to refine the renovation plan
  • On May 17th, contractor Shrewsbury Landscapes and the parks division crew members began the 3-day process of stripping the sod off the playing fields with a coral harvester, reclaiming the material as usable top soil hauled off site by staff to park areas in need of fill and stockpiled the remainder at the Town Garage for future use.
2 machines work to make the athletic fields usable
  • Dr. Dest returned to the site on May 19th to further test the now exposed soils for drainage capacity achieving an adequate, but still questionable rate. Upon his recommendation, we agree to aggressively relieve the compaction, and reassess the soils for drainage and compaction before proceeding.
  • During the week of May 21 to 25 the fields were chisel plowed to a depth of 14 inches to fracture the soils, followed by a Danish Harrow in 2 directions, and rototilled in 2 directions by Liberty to relieve compaction.
  • Drainage is re-assessed and a more than acceptable rate of 2 inches per hour is achieved, so again with Dr. Dest’s recommendation we decided not to amend the soil as originally expected. This will be a huge cost saving development.
  • Laser grading of the surface was completed May 29 and 30 by Liberty.
Machine used to move dirt
  • On May 31 Liberty completed slit seeding in 3 directions with a blend of rye and blue grasses and rolling to protect the fragile seed from heavy rains, and we anticipated with favorable weather that we would see initial germination in 5-10 days.
  • On Friday, June 1 parks crew adjusted irrigation system and placed 2 foot by 2 foot squares of sod around each sprinkler head to prevent “wash out”.
  • With proper and continual monitoring, irrigation and complete field closure over the next 12 weeks we anticipate a playable surface for the Fall season on a slightly restricted basis to prevent overuse and damage to the still fragile turf.
  • The Board of Education has committed $5,000 towards the repairs which will predominantly be applied towards seed, fertilizer, weed control and turf monitoring/assessment provided by River Valley.
  • In-house man hours to date:
Description Number of Days
Number of Hours Per Day
Number of Staff
Total Man Hours
Sod Stripping
2.5 8 3 60
Hauling Material
2 8 2 32
Irrigation Work
1 8 2 16
24 7 108
  • Bill from River Valley has been monitoring the fields daily and treating as needed, which to date includes surflan, fertilizer and fungus control.
  • Thus far, the fields are draining quite well even following a few heavy downpours.
  • The turf is growing well, and the fields may actually need their first mowing the week of July 2nd.
  • Funds expended to date:
    • $1,200 Dr. Dest soil testing, evaluation and recommendations
    • $7,450 Contracted work
    • $8,650 Total
Tractor working on the fields