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Toronto Board of Education eyes athletic improvements

WORK IN PROGRESS — Crews have begun renovations to the Toronto High School baseball field, including the placement of gravel to absorb heavy rain and the installation of artificial turf. The $317,405 project is being funded from a five-year levy approved by voters in April and other local funds. (Photo by Warren Scott)

TORONTO — As crews work to prepare the Toronto High School baseball field with artificial turf, Toronto school officials have begun planning improvements to the school’s football field and athletic track.

Superintendent Maureen Taggart discussed with the Toronto school board Thursday plans to move forward with improvements to the school’s football field, athletic track and visitors section at Clarke Hinkle Stadium.

Plans call for artificial turf to replace the grassy football field and a new visitors section to be built closer to it. The running track that runs along the field’s perimeter will be replaced with another behind the visitors’ section.

Taggart said because the current track runs along both end zones, its hard surface has presented a safety hazard to players who have fallen on its hard surface.

She said the new visitors section will have extended railing, making it safer than the current bleachers, and will be handicap-accessible. There also are plans for a press box there that can be used by visiting coaches while creating additional space for students in the school’s media club who film the games from the home section.

The school board is preparing to seek bids for the project, which is among improvements to athletic facilities to be funded from $418,000 raised by a five-year levy renewed by voters in April.

Taggart said because of the pandemic, prices from contractors for such projects have become very competitive.

She said the school district may see great savings in forging ahead with the improvements though it will require the board to draw from its general funds, then replace them as taxes from the levy come in.

Meanwhile, crews have applied gravel to the high school’s baseball field to provide better drainage during the often rainy weather that occurs in spring when the team plays.

Taggart said crews with Astro Turf are slated to install the more durable artificial turf later this month.

She said the board proceeded with the $317,000 project because it was smaller and could be financed in part from the school district’s capital improvement fund.

Taggart noted the new turf is the latest in a series of renovations to the field in recent years that have included a new dugout, pressbox and fencing supported by grants from the Charles and Thelma Pugliese Foundation and Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Pirate Charities as well as money raised by the Toronto Boosters Club.

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