It felt softer underfoot than natural grass, and it looked beautiful, too, a shade of green that glistened under sunny skies. A crowd of parents, students and administrators gathered on it, looking down occasionally, some smiling.
Although students had used the new artificial-turf field at Oyster Bay High School since late January, it was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting on May 6. Even a group of young T-ball players sitting nearby, waiting for the ceremony to end so they could play, knew the importance of what was about to take place.
The field was one of the major projects made possible by the district’s 21st Century Capital Improvements Bond Referendum, which voters approved two years ago. It took roughly eight months to complete.
Francesco Ianni, superintendent of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District, said he was initially nervous about broaching the subject of a turf field with the president of the Board of Education, Laurie Kowalsky. Ianni was new to the district, and uncertain that his dream would be considered. But Kowalsky was interested. She told
anni to gather data on how much it would cost and what would be involved, and then she would be open to a discussion.
“This has been a project I presented the first month I came to this job,” Ianni marveled. “It’s more than a turf field. It’s the fact that the board, (the) community — we all shared the same vision of making this district the best in the nation. The turf field has been an amazing addition to the community, and it’s enhanced the entire area.”
Eric Bramoff, the district’s director of physical education, health and athletics, was interviewed by BayNews Now anchor Jaiya Chetram before the ceremony began. The student-run broadcast is produced by students like Chetram who take classes at the high school in field reporting, operating television cameras, filming events, editing and anchoring newscasts and learn those skills on the job as well. The students livestreamed the ribbon-cutting for viewers at home.
“This will benefit every kid, from youth organizations to the high school kids,” Bramoff said after finishing the interview with Chetram. “It’s more than a field. It’s a magical place that will bring the community together.”
Bramoff said he was looking forward to seeing the reactions from opponents when they arrived to play. “When they see this field, they’ll be like, wow!” he said with a smile.
Ian Lubin, an athlete and the school’s student council president, said that last spring was a challenge. District teams often vied for slots on the turf field at the James H. Vernon School, especially after heavy rainfalls, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone to play there. With the new field, all of the high school teams will now have a place to play.
Acting Principal Melissa Argaman said she envisioned a broader purpose for the field. “School is where families and children create bonds that enrich our lives,” she said. “The turf field has proven to be a special place. I even saw a snowball fight on this field during our snow day.”
Faith Lingen, a senior and an athlete, said the field has given her a sense of pride. “I play my best and try my hardest when other teams come here,” she said. “Our district is about tradition and strong community.”
Kowalsky described the field as a symbol of what can be achieved when everyone comes together to invest in students and community. “It’s a place where our athletes can compete at the highest level, and where our community can come together to cheer them on,” she said. “So today we cut the ribbon on this new field with great pride and excitement.”
Then, holding a large pair of scissors, Ianni asked that when the ribbon was cut, everyone envision an exciting future filled with optimism. “Let us continue to work together to build the best school and school community in the nation,” he said. “Thank you, all of you, for being part of this momentous occasion.”
Standing before the purple ribbon, Ianni paused and then cut it. As everyone applauded, the Little Leaguers stood up and ran onto the field. It was time to play ball.