Pictured: The removal of the original artificial turf and rubberized track occurred earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Middletown High School)

By Paul Augeri

MIDDLETOWN — Just 48 hours after Middletown High’s Class of 2024 tossed the graduation caps, heavy equipment rolled in to Rosek-Skubel Stadium to jumpstart the process of replacing the artificial turf and track surfaces.

The long-needed upgrades – the original FieldTurf installed 17 years ago was about six years past its life expectancy — began the week of June 17. Weather permitting, work is expected to be completed prior to the start of football and soccer preseason in mid-August.

“The old turf was rolled up, the track was torn out and both were sent for recycling,” said Marco Gaylord, who is overseeing the project as executive director of operations for the Middletown school system. “We’re told this generation of turf is much, much better than the generation of turf installed in 2007-2008.”

The original turf at Middletown High was rolled up and sent for recycling.

The track surface was top-coated and re-lined as recently as six years ago, but there was enough deterioration to warrant replacement. Milling and paving work began this week. The asphalt needs at least a month to cure before coating and lining can proceed, Gaylord said.

The total cost of the project, spearheaded by building committee chairman Vin Loffredo, came in at $1.191 million, Gaylord said, with an additional $24,000 targeted for the purchase and installation of new goalposts. The post at the south end of the stadium was damaged in a storm several years ago.

In board and building committee discussions two years ago, the initial cost of the project was pegged at $766,300, but the figure did not account for milling and paving of the track, Gaylord said. The new figure accounts for those aspects as well as inflation.

The new turf will be laid once work on the track is completed. This version of FieldTurf is solid green in color (as opposed to the previous light-and-dark-green scheme)  and lined for football, soccer and lacrosse specifications. At midfield there will be an oversized Carolina blue “M” logo.

The Board of Education chose HI Stone & Son Construction of Southbury for the project.

“In speaking with the contractor, the beauty of MHS is if they need to work at night, they can,” said Gaylord. “The complex has lights, it’s secluded and the work would not disturb anyone. As the weather cooperates, they will stay on schedule. There’s a balancing act to all of it.”

That the school squeezed as many years as it did out of the old turf was attributed to faithful maintenance.

“Me and (athletic director) Elisha De Jesus were told by the contractor that the field and the track were really taken care of, and that will provide longevity for our complex,” Gaylord said. “Using the groomer and sweeper makes sure that the rubber pellets are level and brushed and that anything magnetized – pins or coins – is picked up to maintain safety of the surface.

“We should feel proud that we’ve taken care of the field and it’s lasted this long. We’re hoping for the same results with this new field.”

Eventually, Gaylord said, the lighting and sound systems at Rosek-Skubel Stadium will be upgraded as well. New light towers would mirror the LED systems installed by Iowa-based Musco Lighting at the Pat Kidney Sports Complex and Palmer Field in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

The cost just for a lights project would start at upwards of $350,000.

“That will be for another day,” Gaylord said.

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