NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High School football and soccer teams are usually among the best teams in the Naugatuck Valley League. The fields they play on, though, are a completely different story.
The Greyhounds’ soccer pitch and football field are marred with ruts, dirt spots, and major drainage issues. Boys soccer coach Art Nunes, who is in his 17th year with the team, has been critical of the field for which his players have to settle.
“It gets deplorable real quick,” Nunes said. “It looks good. But a lot of it is a lot of weeds, and as soon as we catch a cold spell those weeds shrivel up, and the next thing you know, we’re running around on mud.”
Standing water and saturation are the most threatening problems to the fields at the school, which was built in 1959 and has undergone just one major renovation since, in 1974.
In fact, both the football and soccer teams have been forced to move home games to venues outside the borough due to poor field conditions. A home football game against Derby that was scheduled for Sept. 23 had to be moved to Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium due to heavy rain.
“A lot of teams played that night,” said Pompei, who estimated the move cost about $2,000 in fees and concessions. “We moved it to the next day because if we played that evening, our field would have been done for the year. We would have caused such damage. It just can’t take that.”
But the surface to which that game was moved—artificial turf—is part of an $80 million renovation package that will go to referendum on Nov. 8. The package will cover a near-complete overhaul of the entire school, including the athletic complex, and will be eligible for nearly 75 percent reimbursement from the state. That means Naugatuck would be responsible for about $20 million.
The main field would be covered by artificial turf and be home to a football and soccer field, as well as an eight-lane track, while the lower field would be turned into a natural-grass baseball and softball complex. The plan has Nunes excited.
“The turf would make an unbelievable difference, only for the fact that you can practice on it, play on it, no matter what the conditions,” Nunes said.
Pompei thinks the renovation would give Naugatuck a crown jewel.
“This would be the type of thing that we could put up here and our kids could be proud of, and our kids can love,” Pompei said. “It can be something that draws a 30-year-old starting-out family [to say], ‘Hey, let’s come to Naugatuck and let our kids go to these beautiful, new schools and play ball here on beautiful, safe fields.’”