Watchung Field saw massive infill disruption due to Monday’s intense rain storm. MHS AD Patrick Scarpello indicated some of the issue may be a problem with the drainage system underneath the turf.

by Andrew Garda

Torrential rains exasperated problems at the aging Watchung, Fortunato and Woodman fields during Monday’s storm.

The synthetic turf infill was lifted due to the rains and some turf was displaced at Watchung.

With football practice in full swing and various other sports gearing up for their seasons, the MHS grounds staff worked early Tuesday to groom the fields for use, raking the infill back into the synthetic turf, according to Athletic Director Patrick Scarpello.

“The only thing big which happened was at Watchung, where a lot of the turf was displaced,”  he said during a phone call Tuesday afternoon. “We had our grounds guys over there this morning, using the blowers and rakes, getting the turf  back where it should be. As far as any kind of damage or anything where it’s not safe to play, there wasn’t any.”

Scarpello said the turf at Watchung has been occasionally bubbling up, when water gets trapped underneath it. That can cause some more widespread infill displacement, and Scarpello said it’s a sign there’s probably a drainage problem.

“It’s supposed to drain eight inches of rain per hour, so a bubbling field means the drainage isn’t working.”



SportCare, a company which deals with the maintenance of synthetic fields, will be doing some preseason grooming on all three fields next week.

“They’ll be grooming to mostly make things look nice and help with what the rain just did to the field,” Scarpello said. “If they have to add infill to Watchung or Woodman they will, but they can’t add any more to Fortunato, because the [turf] fibers aren’t erect enough to keep the infill in and it will wash away with the first rain.”

Fortunato Field is slated to have the  field turf replaced. Scarpello had no specific dates, but said that the district was still aiming for the end of October or early November as start dates.

“We’re hoping to have everything completed by the start of spring sports,” he said.

To keep things working and allow the MHS soccer teams to keep utilizing Fortunato Field, the school will use the same process they did in the spring.

“Every six weeks, we will have SportsCare come out and do a de-agitation process, which just keeps the field nice and soft to play on,” Scarpello said.

Watchung, Woodman and Fortunato Field (pictured) all had significant disruption of the infill due to Monday’s storm. Fortunato will require regular maintenance again this fall in order to keep it usable by MHS teams.

Scarpello said that Fortunato Field recently had another Gmax test, which measures the shock-attenuation performances off the turf,  two weeks ago and it “passed with flying colors.”

Woodman and Watchung will be tested again in the coming weeks. Normally, a field is only tested once a year, but with the concerns around Fortunato, the district decided to test it again before the season.

When asked about the added cost for de-agitating the field every six weeks, Scarpello didn’t recall the exact cost, but did say that it had already been accounted for in the budget.

“We knew Fortunato wasn’t getting done prior to summer, knew the work it would take and therefore planned for it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that expensive because we did it last spring without…any excess budget issues.”