West Haven installs new turf field
By MIKE MADERA
(September 8, 2009) - When the West Haven football team kicks off the 2009 season next week against Shelton, it will also be christening a new field. Ken Strong Stadium recently underwent construction of the football field, where a new surface, complete with the Blue Devil logo in the middle, was put down.
The new turf, put down by Sports Turf International, replaces the old astro turf which lined the field for eight seasons. With the completion of the turf surface, West Haven can now boast the finest high school playing fields in all of Connecticut.
Led by Sports Facility manager Chris Everone, the complex has played host to numerous championship battles each year. Each field continues to get better.
“This is the nicest synthetic field I have seen around here,” Everone said. “When everyone steps foot on the field, they will be impressed. Shelton has it. Hamden has it and so do both Milford schools. This field, by far, surpasses them.”
The Whitey Piurek baseball field has played host to Southern Connecticut Conference postseason games as well as state tournament quarterfinal contests. The Frank Biondi softball field has played host to the SCC finals as well as the state semifinals and finals, while the football field has seen state semifinal and finals action in football as well as girls and boys lacrosse and girls and boys soccer.
The prior football field was entering its ninth season. While Everone said the field held up as long as it needed to hold up, the facility got as much use out of the field as it could have.
Seeing the field starting to deteriorate, Everone put the wheels in motion to get the new turf field down for the 2009 season. After sitting down with Superintendent Neil Cavallaro, West Haven athletic director Jon Capone and Chairman of the Building Oversight Committee Ken Carney, a plan was put in place.
The construction aspect went out to bid the end of April and the turf companies bid on the whole process. Two years ago, Everone thought the field might have been a city capital movement project which would take five years to get done. When all was said and done, West Haven did not bond the money as it had the money in its operating account.
The project started immediately after graduation on June 22 when the demolition of the prior field took place. Sports Turf finished the job completely on September 1.
The two plus months saw plenty of variables taken into place. The hardest part may have come in the beginning of the process, when the E-layer of the prior turf had to be saved. According to Everone, the hardest part was done brilliantly by Sports Turf.
“The hardest part was lifting the old turf which was glued down to the rubber E-layer,” Everone said. “If we saved the E-layer, we would save a ton of money. I thought it might be a disaster. But, the company came in and the first couple of days were trial and error.
“By the third day, they had it down to a science. There was very minimal damage to the E-layer. They ripped the whole field up in seven days. It was a pretty intensive process. It was amazing how it got done.”
Sports Turf also made an adjustment to the outer boundary of the field where it meets the track surface. The two inch step up around the track was removed, leaving a level surface.
The new surface, which is cheaper than the prior turf and expected to last 15 years, is dynamic as well as impressive to look at. An alternating pattern of dark and light green surfaces every ten yards with a giant Blue Devil logo in the middle of the field. The Blue Devil logo, which was on every athletic venue at West Haven but the football field prior to the new turf, took careful planning to be designed.
The logo was sent out where it was mapped out on a computer. The logo would arrive in three pieces and was placed on the field. Sports Turf traced the image along the field, cut the turf and dropped the logo in. What was an impressive field, took on a dynamic tone with the bright blue and white logo standing out.
“I am ecstatic about it,” Everone said. “The players love it. When fans walk in, they will be shocked how good it looks. It has the two-tone, alternating patterns. When you sit in the stands, it looks even better. It looks tremendous. The fans are going to say it is top notch.”
The Westie staff will also have the luxury of new professional goal posts. Gone are the days of taking down and putting up the soccer nets before and after the games. Portable nets have been brought in for soccer games.
“They (new goal posts) make the complex look more official,” Everone said. “The old posts looked cheesy. These are professional and we got them from the same company that supplies NFL goal posts.”
Prior to the new turf, the old field was made of a nylon fiber which looked like indoor/outdoor carpeting. While it did not look like or play like grass, it was a top of the line turf back in 2000.
This new field is a monofilament turf which has individual blades of turf designed to look like turf. The field, which the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League use, is a new generation turf.
A new generation turf similar to field turf is a better product with a rubber in sole system. The blades of grass are 1 ½ inches high with rubber pellets shot in and brushed. The rubber acts like a cushioning as the blades of grass are upright. The field is also considered to be better on the wear and tear of the athletes.
“It looks like and plays like grass,” Everone said. “It is great on the knees and is real soft. It is a totally different field and is great to play on.”
The field, however, does have its critics. The rubber, which contains recycled tire rubber, is an issue as critics warn the recycled rubber from the tires contains harmful chemicals which could be ingested or inhaled by the athletes using the field.
While studies are being done, Capone realizes the importance of staying abreast of the findings of these studies. He is the first to say no kids will be put in jeopardy.
“We think this field is tremendous,” Capone said. “It is state of the art. It is a lot softer than the previous field. It will play differently, especially in soccer. It is more like a grass field.
“We have no concerns. The design engineer (William Aniskovich) has assured us there are no threats. Athletes can play on the field and there are no side affects.”
West Haven football coach Ed McCarthy has also been impressed. No longer does he walk off the field with aching knees and legs. His players also feel different as well.
“It is fantastic,” McCarthy said. “It really is. It’s softer. It is state of the art. We love it.”
With Biondi and Piurek Fields the standard other facilities around the state try to measure up to, a new gem has been unveiled. After the awe factor sets in, expect Ken Strong Stadium to be considered one of the top playing fields in the state.
That would come as no surprise as Everone’s staff can add yet another jewel to their prized complex.
Head of Sports Complex keeps fields top notch
By MIKE MADERA
(August, 2005) - When a spectator makes his first appearance at the Fitzgerald Sports Complex at West Haven High School, the initial reaction is usual the same. The look of disbelief usually appears on many faces when first seeing the Complex in West Haven. Usually unable to comprehend how nice all three fields are, one wishes his school of choice was fortunate enough to have such a centerpiece.
The main person behind the gem of West Haven is Sports Complex Manager Chris Everone. The former Westie product has made a name for himself with the care of the complex. The 28 year-old has drawn praise from all over as each field continues to look like professional facilities.
The Fitzgerald Sports Complex consists of the Ken Strong Football Field, the Frank Biondi softball field and the Whitey Piurek baseball field. The baseball diamond is the latest gem of the three and Everone feels it is beyond his job to make sure the fields are the best.
“I grew up in West Haven. I went to West Haven High School. I know all about being a Westie and being a Blue Devil. I know the pride in this town. It is one of the best sports towns in the state,” Everone said. “I think this is the best high school sports complex in the state. How many high school complexes are like this? Not many. There are not many colleges who have this. We have baseball, football and softball fields on campus and a hockey rink as well. People just say it’s the best.”
Everone started working at the complex when he was 13 years old. He would work the games by doing the scoreboard operator’s job for soccer and football games. The late Tom Hunt was the athletic director and took Everone under his wing. As time went on, Everone became a fixture at what was just the football field and track. He got familiar with everything going on and quickly became one who stood out.
“I remember him as a teenager down here when I was a coach. Chris was born to be in the position he is in. He was raised here and he takes a great deal of pride in what my opinion is the best high school complex in the state of Connecticut. He takes a lot of pride in keeping it that way,” West Haven athletic director Jon Capone said.
Everone officially took the job as complex manager four years ago when he replaced Gary Broccoli. In that short time frame, the Westie native has quickly made a name for himself. Perhaps the crowning moment came this year when Everone was recognized for his hard work. He was given the Connecticut Sports Writer’s Alliance Good Sport Award for his work during the 2003 state football playoffs in December.
“I thought it was a tremendous honor. I got an award for doing my job. It makes me feel good. It makes me want to come to work. It is good to know people are aware of what you do,” Everone said.
With more than a foot of snow scheduled in the area, the high school championships were in jeopardy. West Haven was scheduled to get two of the games, but that was also in jeopardy. Everone, however, had a plan. Instead of waiting for the snow to end, Everone and his crew were at the field all night keeping up with the snow. When morning came, the field was completely cleared and the bleachers and walkways were also ready to go.
The only thing preventing the state title games from being played was a state road advisory asking people to stay off the roads until further notice. The games at West Haven were pushed back a day and went off without a hitch. When the two other sites could not get their fields ready, Everone and his crew guaranteed Strong Stadium would be ready. As a result, every game was played in West Haven, including the title game between the Westies and New Britain.
“The forecast called for a foot of snow. I got my people in line and we knew what we had to do. The games were scheduled for Saturday. We worked late Friday night into Saturday morning and we just kept up with the storm. We did not have to come in Saturday. At 8 a.m., the fields were ready. They weren’t anywhere else,” Everone said. “I had the crew to help me and they were willing to do it. I was going to get it done regardless of what it took. I take pride in what I do. Having the whole state tournament played here because no one else could get their field ready was huge.”
Everone’s abilities do not just attain to the football field. His hard work, along with assistant Steve Messina, has shown immediate dividends. Biondi Field is considered among the state’s best and those thoughts were conveyed in both the Southern Connecticut Conference and state tournaments. When player upon player and coaches and parents ask why every game is not played there, you know you are doing something right. According to Everone, the desire to have the best fields and complex keeps him going strong.
“The better the fields are, the more games we get and the more recognition we get. I like having games here. I don’t just want high school games here, I want college games as well. People see the fields and they are impressed. They know we care. We do the fields the best we can because we want everyone to come back. People constantly say it’s the best place and we should have all the (tournament) games here,” Everone said. “The key thing is the community is big with sports. You need the right people with the community backing you. The Board of Education is great with me. They have been very supportive. I can go to them with any problems and they will work with me. You need that support.”
While many may think the complex is at its peak, Everone is always looking for something to improve. Whether it is the view for the fans or anything which can make the players’ experience better, the manager knows there is always something which can be better. According to Everone, he won’t stop improving the facility.
“The softball field is the best in the state. The playing field is the best around. I have been told that by several coaches and college coaches and umpires. We are working on making the facility better for the fans. But, that takes time and money. But, we’ll get there,” Everone said. “I think the baseball field is one of the best high school fields in the state. It is a tough place to watch a game but we are doing our best to make it more fan friendly.”
When asked what the key is to keeping this gem so nice, Everone had a simple answer. He just stays on top of the little things. He edges the fields and does countless other things. But, daily maintenance is the key.
“The field is meticulous. Like I have always said, it is like playing at a minor league park. I have played on a lot of fields in the country and this is one of the best,” West Haven baseball coach Mike Anquillare said. “He (Everone) does a great job. Even when it is raining out, he gets it ready. I don’t remember a time I couldn’t get outside. I remember a time in March when it poured for a week and we were supposed to play (scrimmage). No other team played that day, but we did. He is always there when you need him. He treats the field, like I do, as a family member.”
Everone is also quick to point out the appearance and success of the complex is not just because of him. His “crew” is very involved and willing to do whatever is needed. Messina was recently hired as Everone’s assistant and the manager could not have gotten a better person.
“I needed someone else down here. It can be too much with two middle schools and this. He is a kid after my own heart. He is just like me. He’ll learn anything and do anything. He is a great worker. I have complete confidence in him that I can go away for a week and everything will be the same as I left,” Everone said.
Everone knows his job is never done. But, he also knows he has the respect of his peers. For Everone, this job is a pleasure for him.
“I love sports. I love being down here. It is good to know I have the support of the (high school) coaches. It is good the coaches know they don’t have to do anything. I will be here and do it for them. They know they can count on me,” Everone said.
Luckily for West Haven, everyone knows they can count on Chris Everone.
Press Box named for McHugh
(September 29, 2004) - Friday evening’s contest between cross-town rivals Notre Dame and West Haven will have an extra feel of emotion around 7 p.m. Not only are the two teams battling for playoff positions, but the Westies are coming of a rare regular season loss. But, even if the Westie streak was still alive, the emotions would be high for a special dedication prior to the contest.
With all the renovations going on at Strong Stadium, it is only fitting the new press box be named in honor of a legendary Westie. That legend happens to be Joseph S. McHugh and Friday’s ceremony before the contest will be to dedicate the new press box as the Joseph S. McHugh Press Box.
The new press box has been updated inside with a new level for the press, heating, new glass and a separate tier for opposing coaches and cameramen. The renovation of the press box is part of the stadium renovation which includes new bleachers, hand rails and aisles.
“He (McHugh) was a history teacher for 33 years and he coached five different sports at West Haven. That is unusual. One is now the norm and some coaches coach two sports. He also started the lacrosse program in 1972 and that is still going,” West Haven athletic director Jon Capone said. “His claim to fame was football. He was known as “The Coach” in West Haven and he was a great sportsman for the town of West Haven.”
Board member Anne Heffernan came upon the thought of having the press box named in McHugh’s honor. Heffernan brought the suggestion to Capone, who approved the idea and brought the suggestion to the Board of Education. The proposal was brought before the Board of Education and was passed unanimously.
McHugh was named to the first Hall of Fame class at West Haven. He was a graduate of West Haven High in 1951, where he played football, basketball and baseball. McHugh was cited as an All-American in football following his senior year.
After serving in the United States Navy, McHugh attended NH State Teachers College from 1955-1959. He played four years of football and track and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Studies and Physical Education. McHugh returned to West Haven High in 1963 where he taught history and coached football.
“The Coach” had a 33-23-1 record from 1963-1969 and his 1968 team was probably the best known. That team finished with a 9-0 record, was ranked number one in the state and number five in the nation. McHugh was also the assistant coach in basketball and track for two years each and was the assistant coach in hockey for one year. He started the lacrosse program and coached the team for seven years. McHugh has the honor of coaching more sports than anyone else in school history.
THE HOME OF WEST HAVEN SPORTS
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Plenty involved with getting rink ready
By MIKE MADERA
(September 3, 2014) - The Edward L. Bennett Rink gets plenty of visitors throughout the year. Whether it is a youth hockey game, high school or college, the ice is always ready.
Edward L. Bennett Rink
While this may look like a simple task, getting the ice prepared for a season which lasts seven to eight months is a long and involved process.
Athletic facilities manager Chris Everone recently began the process of setting the ice.
Before all the necessary steps could be taken, plenty needed to be done. While most athletes were preparing and or playing in spring sports, Everone and his staff, including Matt Blotney and Alberto Moreno, were taking up the ice.
Chris Everone (c.) with Matt Blotney (l.) and Alberto Moreno (r.) get the ice ready for the 2014-2015 hockey season.
West Haven Facilities manager Chris Everone describes the process of removing the ice.
Once the ice is gone, all the paint and logos which are under the ice also have to be removed.
The rink remains ice free and the Bud Conlan Street Hockey League takes place during the summer. As the summer league is coming to a close, preparations to install new ice are being made.
Chris Everone describes the next phase.
After the rink surface is dirt and particle free, the first order of business is to give the ice surface some color. With members of the hockey team assisting in the painting and Yale University's George Arnaoutis coordinating with Everone, the process starts to take shape.
Once the ice is clear of debris, the surface is cleaned....
...allowing for the first of several coats of white paint to be applied.
The surface is completely covered in white paint, setting the way for the lines and logos to be applied. Photos courtesy of Chris Everone.
Chris Everone on painting the ice.
The ice is given a fresh seal, setting up the process of getting the surface hockey-ready with all the necessary lines, including the blue lines, center ice and goal lines.
Chris Everone on painting the lines.
The blue lines may be the easiest part as painting the faceoff circles and dots comes next. While it takes a trained eye to make the perfect circle, Everone and his staff seem to have this perfected.
Chris Everone on painting the faceoff circles.
Once the faceoff circles are down, the staff gets a bit of a break as a template is used to set the goal crease.
Chris Everone on painting the goal crease.
This season, Everone and his staff have added to the look of the ice by putting the Southern Connecticut Conference logo down. The sharp image stands out immediately.
Chris Everone shows how the Southern Connecticut Conference logo is set.
The West Haven Blue Devil and Southern Connecticut Conference logos. Photo courtesy of Chris Everone.
The next phase of painting the Blue Devil at center ice is very complex. Using several templates and numerous hours by hand, the Blue Devil is the last image painted on the ice.
Chris Everone on the effort it takes to put the Blue Devil logo on the ice.
With help from numerous people, including members of the high school hockey team, the logo is painted and the lines are down. The ice surface is then sealed by the staff.
Chris Everone on sealing the ice.
The final phase now begins as the ice ice is slowly built up. This process is done in stages to allow the ice to set.
Chris Everone describes how the ice will be built with Matt Blotney watering the surface.
With the ice down and ready to go, the zamboni is used to clear, smooth and clean the surface.
Matt Blotney uses the zamboni to clean the ice and prepare the surface for play.
All that is left now is for the games to begin.
It is a process which takes several days and numerous hours to leave a perfect print. For Everone and his staff, they would not want it any other way.
Chris Everone talks about the process of putting down the ice.