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New playing surfaces will be in place for Archmere Academy athletes for fall season

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Work has begun at Archmere Academy to replace two synthetic athletic fields. It is expected to take about five weeks. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

CLAYMONT — When Archmere Academy’s students return to the athletic fields later this summer, they will be doing so on a new synthetic turf. The Claymont school is replacing both of its surfaces.

David Oswinkle, the school’s athletic director, said June 4 that the project has been in the works for about two years. Although the fields have been maintained consistently and were not a safety hazard, officials started noticing breakdowns where the lines are painted on the surfaces.

“The lines fading and falling apart, it was time,” Oswinkle said.

Caravel and Archmere battle in field hockey last fall in Claymont. The synthetic turf at Archmere is being replaced. (Dialog file photo)

The turf at Coaches Field, which is used for football and soccer, was 15 years old, and the lower field – home to field hockey and lacrosse – had the same field for 13 years. They were in very good shape considering the amount of use they get and their age, Oswinkle said.

“We have a service company come in twice a year,” he said. “They can’t believe how good shape they’re in. But the fibers have begun to fray.”

That has led to tears in seams. Some of the lines, which break down from usage and the elements, have had to be repainted. The materials used in turf now, according to Oswinkle, are better able to handle the physical activity and the weather.

Aside from the regular maintenance, another reason the surfaces have lasted is because outside use has been limited. Catholic Youth Ministry is one of the organizations that has had access to Coaches Field, holding football games there for years.

“We try to keep our rental down for that reason. We don’t want everyone out there playing on it and beating it up,” Oswinkle said.

Removal of the turf at Coaches Field began June 1, a day after Archmere’s seniors visited for a parade around the campus. Oswinkle said both fields will be ready to go when practice for fall sports begins on Aug. 12 in whatever form that is.

“It’s a five-week project. We could be up and ready by the middle of July,” he said.

James Pinto comes up with a reception for the Auks last fall. Coaches Field will have a new turf before the end of the summer. (Dialog file photo)

The infrastructure is already in place at both locations, so the school doesn’t have to worry about drainage, for example. Most of the small rubber pellets that are spread into the turf, which provides support for the synthetic blades and cushion for the athletes, will be cleaned and reused. Only the top layer of the pellets – called “crumb rubber” – will be new.

The school raised money to pay for the upgrades. According to Oswinkle, a project of this size could cost “upwards of $1 million. We’re doing it for significantly less.”

The advantages of a synthetic field are many, he continued. It provides a consistent surface for athletes without divots and other imperfections in a natural-grass surface. Rain is not an issue, so there are fewer postponements and the resulting need to reschedule games. In addition, mowing and fertilization are not an issue.

Synthetic fields are commonplace at high schools below the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Above the canal, few schools have them. Abessinio Stadium, which is being built where Baynard Stadium once stood, will be the newest.

“For the overall aesthetics and the overall aspect of the school, it’s a worthy investment,” Oswinkle said.