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Synthetic Turf Pitched for New East Hampton Little League Fields

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 11:17
Artificial turf fields are in use at the East Hampton High School.
Christine Sampson

A plan to remove and relocate Little League fields from Pantigo Place in East Hampton to the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons property on Stephen Hand's Path in Wainscott took a step forward on Tuesday, with a majority of the town board agreeing on a plan to construct two state-of-the-art baseball fields with synthetic turf and multiple amenities at the site.

The relocation will make way for Stony Brook Southampton Hospital's planned freestanding emergency department at 400 Pantigo Place, for which the town board has approved a long-term lease with the Southampton Hospital Association, the not-for-profit corporation that operates the hospital. The association is responsible for the removal and demolition of the existing ball fields and construction of the new fields.

The new fields will have dugouts, scoreboards, bleachers, existing restrooms, and parking that will be upgraded and expanded. There will be lighting as well, to be taken from the existing site. The project must be completed before ground is broken on the emergency department.

The town board named a relocation committee in 2018 to identify and evaluate potential sites, design the fields and amenities, and oversee construction of the new fields. Several members of the committee called in Tuesday to the board's virtual meeting to voice support for the plan they had recommended, an approximately 51-acre site at 110 Stephen Hand's Path where the C.D.C.H. had been situated; it closed in 2016. The site now features two soccer fields, two volleyball courts, a walking path, and a playground. It is about 35 percent cleared, and plans call for an additional 5 percent, or 133,000 square feet, to be cleared.

LK Mclean Associates will design and construct the fields, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez told the board, at a cost of $76,500 for design and $56,000 for construction and inspection.

"We did consider the current and future needs of baseball," said Tim Garneau of the relocation committee, including a growing number of travel teams and the need for "a strict Little League-size field with 200-foot fences" and a second field for different levels of play. He described the site's present features as "somewhat limited."

Mr. Garneau said he had met with Edward Morris, parks and recreation commissioner of Brookhaven Town, and inspected what Mr. Morris described as "the best Little League field on Long Island," built by LK Mclean Associates. "Eddie said kids love playing on these new fields, they love playing on turf," and that Brookhaven has seen increased Little League enrollment. "He said it's true, if you build it, they will come."

Synthetic turf fields do not require irrigation, drainage, or fertilizer, Mr. Garneau noted, while East Hampton's Little League teams have suffered rainouts because of poor conditions on the existing natural grass fields, disrupting game schedules. Synthetic turf fields also cost less. The existing comfort station at the Stephen Hand's Path site will be upgraded with a nitrogen-reducing septic system. "Overall, it's going to be a great family gathering place for our community."

But Councilman Jeff Bragman expressed reservations. Synthetic turf, which may contain tire crumb rubber, is "not what East Hampton really is," he said. "I still think we are a rural community. There are big issues on disposing of these kinds of turf, it's very difficult to deal with, it's not recyclable."

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, "Studies to date have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb rubber, but the existing studies have been limited."

Enhanced playability and greater participation are good points, Mr. Bragman said, but the plan "should go to the planning board, which could consider some other aspects of turf fields that might have gotten less attention." The planning board has a site plan application for the emergency room before it, he noted, and as it and the playing fields' relocation "are all pieces of the same application, they should be considered at the same time."

"While one may relate to the other," said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, "they're not the same application."

But one would not happen without the other, Mr. Bragman protested. "Something in me rebels and says East Hampton is different," he said. "I know Brookhaven has state-of-the-art fields, but I think there is some value to playing on the good earth. . . . My preference would be that we keep East Hampton rural and have our kids play on green grass and earth, and get that experience. I believe it is not only what baseball is and always should be, but what East Hampton is and always should be."

His objections were ignored, and the board is on track to hire LK Mclean Associates to begin the new fields' design phase and authorize an $80,000 bond issue at its Nov. 5 meeting. That money is to be reimbursed by the Southampton Hospital Association. The engineering, site plan review, and permitting process would begin this winter and continue into the spring of 2021, with construction slated to begin in the summer or fall. An opening day celebration is envisioned for the spring of 2022.

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