A moment years in the making for Springfield arrived last week with the groundbreaking of the turf field at Jonathan Dayton High School.
The artificial athletic field has been an active cause among Springfield parents for several years. In January and February of 2012, the vision took huge leaps towards becoming reality when the Springfield Township Committee and Board of Education passed a “land swap” deal to offset costs of the $3.4 million project.
Officials, student athletes and residents were on hand for the ceremonial start of construction on Friday, Sept. 7. A bright late summer sun shone over the field and many noted that the weather reflected the upbeat optimism inherent in the day’s events. Dayton soccer coach Felix Fabiano said that while it was emotional seeing the ordinance funding the project pass, this day was the “real thing.”
“We’ve been scrounging for fields for years,” Fabiano said. “When it rained, for weeks we couldn’t play.”
Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady, an official rarely tongue-tied, described himself as speechless.
“Words can’t describe how I’m feeling today,” Shehady said.
Springfield School Board member Irwin Sablosky was a vocal proponent of the turf field project while board president in 2010 and throughout his time serving on the board. In his remarks, Sablosky focused on the new field’s impact on not only the athletes, but hometown pride.
“Gone will be the days of needing bus rides to get to our home field,” Sablosky said. “Springfield will have a true home field advantage.”
Springfield Schools Superintendent Michael Davino illustrated how long the turf field idea had been in consideration by noting that it was one of the first things he discussed when taking the job eight years ago. He noted the praise the school system had garnered from Newsweek and NJ Monthly magazines and asserted that the student body was uniquely prepared to benefit from the new athletic facilities.
“Our ratio of students to participants in sports is between 70 and 80 percent,” Davino said.
The turf field has been a major focus of Deputy Mayor Jerry Fernandez’s political career. After speaking in passionate defense of the field on numerous occasions and hosting fundraisers for the project at his Harrison restaurant, he expressed satisfaction at seeing his efforts beginning to bear fruit.
“When the Township Committee works with the Board of Education and the community for the good of the town, it’s a great thing,” Fernandez said.