Graduation on new field requires precautions

Wilton High School graduation is a time when the school district sets out several hundred folding chairs on Fujitani Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium and students take their pomp and circumstance.

But that will change next June because of the new coconut fiber field that has been installed in time for the start of football practice. The owner’s manual for the field, a copy of which was obtained from supplier Shaw Sports Turf in Georgia, shows that the chairs can be set out only with plywood underneath them, and sheet of plastic under the plywood.

“It is good practice to eliminate any unnecessary long-term static loads,” the manual reads. “Under static loads, the surface should first be covered with a load spreader such as polyethylene sheeting to keep it clean. New plywood may contain materials that will leach out and stain the turf if it is exposed to water therefore a polypropylene barrier should be used under the plywood to prevent this from happening,” according to the manual.

This will add a layer of preparation and expense for high school graduations, but it should not be unexpected. A spokesman for the company said the Department of Parks and Recreation, which had the turf installed, should be aware of the maintenance manual and what it says.

“For special events like assemblies or convocations, the basic procedure is to keep below 300 pounds per square foot by the use of plywood or other load spreaders. Any chairs directly on the surface should be inspected for sharp edges that could damage the turf,” said Deb Henning, warranty coordinator for the company.

“Owners of the field have received copies of the maintenance manual and the maintenance video at the completion of the field. They should have all that information,” Henning said.

The matter was brought to light by a Wilton Bulletin reader who posted a comment after reading the story about the new turf online.

The Recreation Department is aware of the commencement requirements and has informed the Board of Education, said Steve Pierce, recreation director.

“We’ve had that discussion,” Pierce said of the talk about the field with the school officials.

Pierce said the school district should have been doing that with the previous field as well, because there should be a base under the chairs.

“You don’t want to puncture the field with something like chairs, or a dais, or a stage. You have to block it,” said Pierce, who said the instruction manual also rules out the use of metal cleats during football games.