SWR fundraiser says turf field could cost too much

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Al Sutton, an architect based in Miller Place who has volunteered to work on the athletic field, said the first phase of the athletic field project, installing a 31-by-14-foot press box, would take three to four months.

While Shoreham-Wading River parents and community members are scrambling to raise money for a new turf field, the man leading the effort admitted this week the full vision may never become a reality.

The Wildcat Athletic Club, a private charity that supports the district’s athletic activities, has set out to raise money for a three-phase project: an indoor press box with bathrooms, permanent lighting, new bleachers and — the biggest chunk and most expensive part of the project — a brand new turf field.

The total price tag? $775,000.

“Living in a small community like Shoreham-Wading River, we just don’t know if we’ll be able to generate that much money,” said club member Chris Rosati, who is spearheading the fundraising effort. “We’re starting with the phase we have the materials and donations for. When we do that, hopefully we’ll get more community involvement and interest and they’ll want to contribute toward the other phases.”

The club has raised $30,000 in donations so far and received promises of labor and materials for most of the first phase — the press box.

Mr. Rosati said the turf field, the most expensive piece of the project, will be saved for last and won’t be completed if the money isn’t raised.

Installing the press box, with ADA-compliant bathrooms, will cost about $100,000 and is being donated almost entirely by Tommy Pirraglia, owner of Pirraglia Contracting in Rocky Point. Mr. Pirraglia has put up a performance bond so the district has the money to complete the project if he cannot.

Mr. Rosati plans to break ground by June at the latest, and expects the press box to be finished by the start of the football season this fall.

Mr. Rosati, a nine-year resident of the community with three children in the district, noted that many of the district’s competitors, like Mount Sinai and Eastport-South Manor, have more advanced facilities, with new turf fields, lights and press boxes.

“If you look at the facility they have and then you look at Shoreham-Wading River, it’s a little depressing,” he said.

The current field is made up of natural grass, which is reserved for games only. Student athletes practice on other fields on the school’s grounds to maintain the quality of the field. Two sets of bleachers, smaller than those at surrounding districts, sit on the field.

Mr. Rosati said the district’s football, lacrosse and girls’ and boys’ soccer teams will be able to use the upgraded turf field, should it be built. The field would also be used for nighttime school and community events.

Parents of students who play basketball and other indoor sports who don’t wish to donate to the project can instead give money to the Wildcat Athletic Club’s general fund. A separate account is reserved for the athletic field project, Mr. Rosati said.

Mr. Rosati didn’t know the most amount of money the Wildcat Athletic Club has ever raised, but he noted they managed to raise $60,000 a few years ago when sports programs were in danger of being cut from the district budget.

If completing the entire project remains feasible, he hopes all work will be completed by 2015.

“We don’t want this to linger on for 10 years,” he said. “We want to be aggressive in trying to raise the money. At some point, we’ll have to make a decision if we can’t generate enough money to do all three phases.”

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