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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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High school turf fields delayed

Published 10:25 am, Thursday, August 21, 2014
  • The Darien Athletic Foundation has delayed the installation of new turf fields until after the new concession stand at the high school is completed. Photo: Megan Spicer / Darien News
    The Darien Athletic Foundation has delayed the installation of new turf fields until after the new concession stand at the high school is completed. Photo: Megan Spicer

 

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While work to install new turf fields at Darien High School was slated to begin before the start of the school year, the project has been put on hold until next summer.

After discussions with town officials, the Darien Athletic Foundation decided to finish the $500,000 pavilion at the high school stadium before starting work on the fields, DAF President Peter Graham said.

Graham said the DAF "toyed" with starting some of the construction on the field following the 2014-15 soccer season, but the logistics of working in colder weather while students were in school wouldn't pan out.

The DAF has started work on a $7.5 million town-wide athletics facilities improvement plan, called the Sunny Day project. The first of three gifts given to the Board of Education was a $250,000 scoreboard, which was installed during the 2013-14 school year.

Darien resident Paul Michalski is suing the DAF because he claims there was a conflict of interest with the approval of the fields because of Planning and Zoning Commission member John Sini Jr.'s previous involvement with the DAF.

According to the lawsuit, Michalski, who lives on a Middlesex Road property about 100 feet from the back of the high school campus, claims that Sini was a founding member of the DAF and was involved with the Darien Junior Football League, which is expected to benefit from the "Sunny Day project."

Sini said he never had a role on the DAF since it was formally incorporated in January 2013 and that he resigned from the DJFL board in November 2013 once he was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The lawsuit is pending.

The DAF seeks to turf three fields at the high school and create a grass junior varsity softball stadium. Each field would cost an estimated $1 million.

The DAF has $4.2 million in monetary commitments from residents to pay for the fields, according to Graham.

The Board of Education has asked that the DAF submit a concrete timeline of construction for the fields, according to Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross.

"Everybody needs to be on the same page for this," Hagerty-Ross said.

She expects the DAF to appear at a September Board of Education meeting.

Graham said the gifts to the town are not "just for the kids playing sports now," but are for all the families in town.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews