Kean High football field doesn't measure up
Published: September 20, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The long-delayed Eudora Kean High School football field - which has been under construction for seven years and has seen its cost skyrocket - has hit a new hurdle: The field is not regulation length, according to the school's football coach.
"I was looking at the field, and I was looking at the field, and I kept thinking it was short," said coach Elroy Donovan Jr.
Donovan said he has measured the field four times now, and each time the measurements fall short by 10 to 20 feet.
If his measurements are correct, the field does not meet the required dimensions of National Federation of State High School Association regulations, which require a field to be 360 feet long and 160 feet wide.
In two measurements taken Thursday afternoon, Donovan measured 350 feet and 346 feet.
If the field were measured from tip to tip, it would not fall short, but large sections are cut out at the end of the field, which makes the ends unusable for football purposes.
However, V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said the field meets the required length.
"The field fits the design," Smalls said.
The field was only one part of a plan made by CPC Consultants, which designed the field, track and all other components of the sports usage area. APEX Construction was the contractor.
If the field is too short, it is unclear whether that is because of a flaw in the design or because of poor execution of the design by the contractor.
"Did I go out and measure it myself? No," said Smalls, who trusts that the design was executed in the construction of what was expected to be a more than $5 million project.
Smalls could not say how much the project has cost to date, but last year, the Senate approved legislation appropriating about $10 million to be used for track and field projects at all four of the territory's public high schools, including $4.5 million for the Kean project.
Smalls said the field's completion is still anticipated for sometime this school year.
However, he has made similar statements throughout the project.
The work was supposed to be completed in 2010, 2011, 2012 and, now, 2013.
"Our target is to have the track surface and infield completed by this June," Smalls said in September 2011, more than two years ago.
In June 2012, Smalls said: "The overall price tag for this project will be in excess of $5 million. That includes all three phases. We are working on Phase II right now and hope to have it done this summer."
On Thursday, Smalls said the field will be finished before the end of the current semester.
Donovan and his players are disheartened by what they see as yet another obstacle to the field finally being finished.
"It's depressing," said Donovan.
The football players were beyond disappointed when they heard the news, though they could not say that they were surprised because the completion of the field has become a running joke among them.
"It probably won't be done until I have my second kid, if I ever have kids," said Kerrol Laurent, 17, laughing with his teammates during practice Thursday.
Until the field is finished, Kean football players are banged up by the rocky practice field that is on the other side of the fence from the field that they want to use. To get to practice they have to either walk through the construction zone of the new field or along the busy roadway.
They said they are used to it, though, because that is the way it always has been for them.
"They told us that we were going to play this year, and then they said we were going to play next year, and now I'm hearing we're going to play never," said Malik Richards, 16.
When they do have game days - which are coming up in October - the players use the Lionel Roberts Stadium in Hospital Ground.
For many of the players, getting there is difficult, as a lot of them struggle to find rides to the stadium on the other side of the island.
For those players who live on St. John, it is the most difficult, because they have to take the ferry, and then find a ride, and then get back in time for the ferry home.
The years of delay in getting the field finished have also been a disappointment to the school's athletic department, which was looking forward to drawing a bigger crowd to the games this year because most of the team's fans would be closer to the game.
A bigger crowd would bring in more revenue from the sale of concessions and admissions.
"It's just kind of mind-boggling," said Kean Athletic Director Peter Seipel. "We can't use it."
Now, with Public Works saying the field is the right length and the school saying it is not, the field likely will have to be measured by the Interscholastic Athletic Association, which ultimately would determine whether the field was too short for use during a game, Seipel said.
If it is too short, still to be determined is what the next step would be and how much it would cost.
Fixing the field would be problematic because the track, while not yet surfaced, already is installed around the perimeter of the field.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.