Courts look good, but…

Patrick Newell

Last Friday I had the opportunity to look at Norwich’s new football field. The workmen were busily rolling in the rubber pellets and sand to provide a base at the bottom of the grass-like turf. I suppose, like any carpet, there needs to be a rubberized cushioning, and if you ever are close enough to watch on-the-field action, you’ll see a splashing effect when ball-carriers hit the turf. The past couple of years when I have watched games up close and personal on these types of fields, I wondered what exactly was spraying around when players hit the ground. Now I know. My placement so close to the football field was a result of my witnessing the Norwich girls’ tennis team’s opening match against Susquehanna Valley. A good friend of mine has a daughter who plays, so I joined him courtside. I marveled at the courts spit-shine look. They were resurfaced and relined, and a 100 percent improvement over the shoddy and potentially dangerous base that was last year’s courts. Last year – and at least the previous year – there were areas that were simply unplayable if any moisture hit the courts. I looked at the seven courts, and noticed something awry. Two of the courts on the south side looked like the “before” picture in those before/after photos. Those two were untouched in the refurbishing process. I said, “huh?” Did the money run out after five courts were done? Could it be an oversight that will be corrected once the season is over? I asked Norwich head coach John Stewart about it, and he said they are done and no further work on the courts is planned. Again, I said, “huh?” Those two courts are blatant eyesores to an otherwise stellar job performed on the other five. The most egregious mistake is that the seven courts are all needed for matches. Seven matches are played in STAC varsity tennis, so two of those matches will get the short straw when they play on this mine field. The five pristine courts have the look of a tennis show place, and I could easily see Norwich hosting larger scale tennis events, but that notion is now a pipedream with two courts that are not only aesthetically displeasing, but barely usable.
Update: As told to me by Norwich coach John Stewart earlier this week, not paving all seven of the courts was an oversight from the beginning, and the plan is to have that eventually rectified. In the meantime, Norwich plays its home matches on the five completed courts, exhibition matches are held on the two subpar courts, and the first two matches completed the new courts open the door for the two final matches to commence. Depending on the length of matches, it adds perhaps an hour or hour and a half to each Norwich home match.