Pitch goes from muddy to rutty after mire is mowed

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Shawn Kuczenski of the Parks Department uses a field grooming machine to level ruts in Veterans Field at Naugatuck High School after another parks employee mowed the lawn in the mud. Parents and school coaches are upset over the conditions of both the football and soccer fields. - RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A new kind of stripe appeared Wednesday on the Naugatuck High School soccer and football fields.

Parents and residents who turned out to see the boys’ soccer team play Wednesday night against Seymour were angered to see both fields carved with grooves from the wheels of a riding mower used by a borough employee when the fields were still soft with mud from rainstorms earlier in the week.

“I was infuriated,” said Art Nunes, head of the boys’ soccer program at Naugatuck High School. “Once they realized the mower was sinking into the mud, they should have stopped.”

The Greyhounds handily defeated Seymour 7-2, but play for both teams was sloppy and especially difficult on the side of the field closest to the school, Nunes said.

“Having played on the longer grass would not have hurt the game, or the field, as much,” Nunes said.

A borough parks employee continued mowing the Naugatuck High School football and soccer fields although the wheels of his heavy mower were sinking into mud Wednesday, cutting grooves in the field. The football field was leveled Thursday and the soccer field should be fixed today, Public Works Superintendent Robert Roland said. - RA ARCHIVE

Parks department employee Daniel Hennessey mowed the fields Wednesday morning, as he has once or twice a week for the past 12 years, said Public Works Superintendent Robert Roland. As Hennessey neared the middle of the sloped field, he noticed the mower was operating differently, but did not realize how badly both fields were rutted until the job was done, Roland said.

“I was pretty disappointed,” Roland said. “In hindsight, we shouldn’t have cut it, with all the rain and history of drainage on those fields.”

Roland said he had ordered Hennessey to mow the fields so they could be striped and painted for upcoming games, but in the future, mowers should consult him and the high school’s athletic director if the field is muddy. “I’ll take full responsibility for it,” Roland said. “His intentions were good.”

Both fields have a long history of poor drainage, but this is the first time in recent memory they have been damaged while mowing, officials said.

Another parks employee, Shawn Kuczenski, used a field grooming machine to level out the football field Thursday, and Roland said the same would be done Friday for the soccer field. Roland said Kuczenski’s work on the football field set him behind schedule, and he might have to work overtime to paint it, but the home football game Friday against Sacred Heart will proceed as scheduled.

Nunes said the school was making arrangements for the girls’ soccer team to practice at another facility Thursday night, while the boys would do fitness exercises on the track.

A proposal to renovate the high school would place football and soccer on one field of synthetic turf, eliminating concerns over flooding, mowing and striping, Roland said.

“I’m not using this to say, ‘See, we need turf,'” Roland said. “But the parks department and teams would benefit.”