HOWELL – Howell High School’s Athletic Field will get a makeover as early as this Spring.
The biggest upgrade will be a switch from grass playing fields to more easily managed synthetic turf. Other improvements include rebuilding the track with new asphalt surfacing and updating the fence around the track to make the area safer.
New long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault areas will also be added to the facility.
The project, which is being managed by Suburban Consulting Engineers, will help Howell stay in line with requirements from the National Federation of State High Schools Association, officials said. The consulting firm has worked with numerous other schools and colleges across New Jersey to design athletic fields.
The field upgrades were discussed at the township’s March 2 planning board meeting, where members of the planning board raised questions about the materials used to make synthetic turf, citing an NBC News report from three years ago th
at suggested college soccer athletes had contracted cancer from exposure to the recycled rubber often found in artificial fields.
Suburban Consulting Engineers Vice President Joseph Perello said that there have been over 60 studies conducted by the Synthetic Turf Council that prove there is no link between cancer and the recycled rubber used in synthetic turf.
Perello also mentioned using a newer kind of turf called CoolPlay, which is partially made from non-recycled material.
“We do have an alternate bid item, including the specifications for a topping of a coated rubber and sand material known as CoolPlay, which allows the surface of the turf field to remain cooler and also keeps the rubber and sand layer on the lower levels, while this is on the top level.”
The Freehold Regional High School District’s Board of Education has already looked into the safety of the product. Perello also said they are currently installing the CoolPlay material in several other school districts in New Jersey, including on Point Pleasant Borough High School’s athletic field.
“This product, what the school district is proposing, is the introduction of sand in the bottom where there’s some recycled rubber in the mix, and the introduction of the CoolPlay material, which is a non-recycled material,” said Perello.
The project is currently out to bid with two contractors, and Suburban Consulting Engineers will start receiving bids in early March. If the figures are within budget and approved by the school district, the turnaround time will be quick.
In related news, the Howell Girls’ Track & Field team is home to a newly crowned state champ. Niamh Hayes became the second girl in school history to win the NJSIAA Meet of Champions 3200-meter race on February 26, crossing the finish line nearly nine seconds before the second-place runner.