Funds Needed To Improve Winston Wells Ball Field


 While Winston Wells ball field can host baseball and softball games, soccer and tackle football are not allowed on the hard surface.

It’s no secret that the condition of the island’s sole athletic field, the Winston Wells ball field located behind Julius E. Sprauve School in Cruz Bay, is far from ideal.

With dirt packed so hard injuries are known to occur from falls and cleats often get stuck, the field actually poses a danger to the sports teams which use it and even prohibits its use by other teams.

A new plan, spearheaded by a fifth grade St. John student and originally used as a fourth grade science fair project, offers a well conceived and realistic fix for the field.

Ten-year-old Gifft Hill School student Charlie Palminteri has been playing flag football and other sports on the field for years. Last year for his GHS science fair project, Palminteri created a plan to improve the surface of the field primarily using compost.

“The surface [of the Winston Wells ball field] is as hard as concrete, littered with rusty bottle caps, nails, broken glass and essentially no grass growing,” according to Charlie Palminteri’s proposal. “There are also two pieces of actual concrete one and one-and-one-half feet in diameter in the playing field area. Too many children and adults are injured unnecessarily on this field.”

“My science fair project included test planters to make sure this would work; it does,” according to the proposal “Ideas were developed by consulting with Dr. David Minner, Iowa State University turf field expert; he resurfaced Yankee Stadium.”

Charlie Palminteri’s plan calls for tilling one inch of the surface of the field, mixing that with equal parts topsoil and compost to a depth of two inches and seeding. The next step is watering and fertilizing the field for two to three months, when it will be ready for athletics.

The proposal also outlines where to obtain the materials, showing Charlie Palminteri has done his homework. Compost will be donated by Carolina Corral and Caneel Bay Resort, most of the topsoil will be donated by St. John contractor Jonathon Doran and Canines, Cats and Critters has agreed to donate seed and fertilizer.

While the Fire Department has agreed to water the field, Charlie Palminteri’s plan outlines the best way to make the most use of that water.

“The installation of a trenched irrigation system will greatly improve the long term success and maintenance of the field,” according to the proposal. “As many know, water is a valuable resource on St. John and water conservation is important. The location of the field adjacent to the fire station makes a reliable water source available.”

“The Virgin Islands Fire Service has approved the use of their water source for this project,” according to the proposal. “Since this field is also used for Carnival concerts and several other major events (Love City Live, Relay for Life) this system must be installed underground via trenching. Installation of an irrigation system is the major expense of this project; however, it is critical to make sure the field gets adequate moisture for continued growth of the grass.”

After the field is in place, Steve Tilas has agreed to use an available mower from Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, to maintain it, according to Palminteri’s proposal.

While the plan is now supported by the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation and the St. John Community Foundation, Palminteri needs the community’s help.

Palminteri and his supporters, which include his mother, Canines, Cats and Critters owner  Dr. Laura Palminteri, estimate that the overall project — including resurfacing, seeding, fertilizing and installing an irrigation system — will cost $40,000.

St. John Community Foundation, a 501c3 organization, is accepting donations for the project and will write checks directly to contractors and suppliers, explained Laura Palminteri.

“We want to be able to adequately maintain this field once this work is done,” she said. “Although the Fire Department has agreed to water the field, installing an irrigation system will be much more reliable and efficient. This will greatly improve the quality of the turf and make sure it is easy to maintain as a safe, softer surface for years to come.”

“This is a major expense, between $10,000 and $15,000 depending on difficulty of trenching it in,” Laura Palminteri said.
The plan also has a tight window for success.

With St. John Festival festivities now over, there are no sport events scheduled to use the field until Using Sport for Social Change’s annual Just Play Day on October 14.

“Sports, Parks and Recreation and Sprauve School are committed to no use of the field from immediately after Carnival (July 210) until October,” according to Charlie Palminteri’s proposal. “This is adequate time for a solid base to be grown.”

“The overall budget is $40,000 and we are in a race to raise these funds as we do not want to miss this window of opportunity,” said Laura Palminteri. “The school uses this field daily and will only allow this project over the summer.”

Donations for the Winston Wells ball field improvement plan can be made through the St. John Community Foundation. The 501c3 organization will accept checks — write “ballfield project” in the memo line — for the project which will go to pay suppliers and contractors.

“Let’s all work together to improve the safety and sports experience for our youth,” according to Charlie Palminteri’s proposal. “Any and all donations are greatly appreciated.”

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