Fields and athletic facilities were improved over the summer and are ready for the fall sports season to begin.

A Winning Team

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Thursday August 18, 2016

When the fall athletic season begins next week, the grounds at the district schools will be ready for action. The fields will be freshly trimmed, and lined for play as preseason begins. Hundreds of young athletes will be training in facilities that are maintained by only a few dedicated district employees. 

In total, the district’s five schools encompass 88 acres of land. Bart Miceli, director of facilities for the district, and his small but exceptionally dedicated staff are responsible for maintaining the facilities year-round. The team, which includes Jeremy Rushford and Ryan Burritt, manages a countless number of projects and responsibilities at once. Their duties include landscaping, pruning, mowing, marking, assembling goals, field maintenance and snow removal on sidewalks for all five schools. This year, they will also be managing snow removal on the high school parking lot.

Their usual responsibilities are enough to keep the small group busy throughout the year, but there are always big projects the district has to take on, especially during the summer. This summer is no exception, as the track, turf field and tennis courts have all been going through considerable renovations; the staff plays an important role in making sure the projects run smoothly.

South Burlington is home to the best tennis program in the state, and after a face lift over the summer, the Rebels will once again call the SBHS courts home. The high school tennis courts were out of commission last year, and both teams had to host their home matches elsewhere The grounds of the courts had been originally built as a multi-use facility due to the grant that funded the project. In the winter, the courts were used as an ice rink, which over time damaged the courts. South Burlington Activities Director Ed Hockenbury is thankful the city’s Recreation Department was able to help finance the refinishing. “We appreciate the recreation department for getting the courts done, it will be nice to be home again next spring,” he said.

Munson Field and track are also going through a makeover. The track has been refinished and brand new turf will be ready to go for fall. Safety nets were installed on both ends of the field to protect runners from flying balls. While these projects have been contracted out, the facilities department has been involved in the intricacies of the work. There are spots on the inner edge of the track where the asphalt meets the nailer board that the turf attaches to, and Rushford and Burritt have been filling in these gaps by hand to proactively secure the effectiveness of the project. They are also constantly having to relocate equipment around the grounds to allow the projects to proceed.

“Their knowledge of the facility has been vital to the contractors completing these large projects,” Hockenbury said.

The turf field isn’t the only field that has needed a lot of attention. The “Tundra Field” near the student parking lot, has had a lot of work done to it to make it a safe and effective playing surface. The location and structure of the field make it hard to maintain, due to its poor draining and lack of crown, but under Miceli’s direction, Rushford and Burritt have worked to fix the field and get it in the best shape possible.

The new weight room, located in the high school’s old Cafeteria 3, has reenergized training programs. The weight room was previously on the balcony of the gym. “It was inadequate for our needs,” Hockenbury said. Admitting that it’s not a finished product yet, he is already seeing the benefit of the facility. “Our football summer training program has been 100% better than it has been previously,” he said. The new facility has the look of a cross fit gym, with bars from wall to wall and 10 stations for people to perform core lifts or pull ups. The new facility will also benefit the P.E. program. Hockenbury acknowledged that Miceli was instrumental in creating the new “Rebel Strong” weight room, mentioning that it wouldn’t exist without him.

The facilities team also managed to complete key projects last spring. Funded by the boosters, athletic department, and youth baseball and softball, Jeremy and Ryan built the brand new softball batting cages from scratch. Paying to have them built would have been too expensive, so the project was taken on in-house, and now the school has tremendous batting cages.

Despite the need, the current staff finds a way to get it all done, even when new jobs come up. “One job starts, something else comes up,” Burritt said. But that’s the job. The staff has to be adaptable to challenges and be actively engaged as problem solvers. For the recently completed batting cages, they are recycling turf from the stadium field and installing it in the cages, for a polished look. When trails were developed behind the athletic fields, they built bike corners off the trails for bikes to traverse. They go beyond the expectations of the job, and take as much pride as anyone for the quality of the facilities.

The next time you participate in a Rebel sporting event as a spectator or athlete, remember the people who go above and beyond to make that event happen. “Whatever it takes, that’s what we do,” Rushford said.

SOURCE:  Drew Gordon, Correspondent