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Monday, April 23 Local

School board accepts turf field gift

The fate of the Darien Athletic Foundation's gift of five artificial-turf fields in town is in the hands of the Board of Selectmen after the Board of Education unanimously accepted it.

The DAF seeks to turf three fields at Darien High School and create a grass junior varsity softball stadium. The DAF also intends to turf two fields at Middlesex Middle School in 2015.

The Planning and Zoning and Environmental Protection commissions approved the project prior to Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

The Representative Town Meeting will need to approve the fields, which were initially presented to the school board in October 2013, following selectmen approval.

If the fields are approved in a timely fashion, the upper and center oval fields at the high school can be turfed during the summer and be ready for the start of the 2014-15 school year. The work would start after the town fireworks in late June. The remaining work would be done during summer 2015.

In addition, the center oval field will be extended. Currently, it is 12 feet too small for a regulation girls' lacrosse field. At the end of the project, the field will be large enough for lacrosse, soccer, football and field hockey.

The life expectancy of the turf fields is 10 years and cost an estimated $1 million each.

The DAF intends to privately raise $7.5 million for what is calls the "Sunny Day Project," which includes the turfing of the fields. The organization already has purchased and installed a $250,000 scoreboard at the high school stadium and is in the process of giving the school board a $500,000 concession stand, which will be built at the field entrance.

The Sunny Day Project was developed with input from former Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone; Board of Education Facilities Manager Michael Lynch; DHS Athletic Director Michael Sullivan; DHS field sports, such as football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, varsity coaches; Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg; and heads of town youth leagues.

All of the phases of the project will be presented as gifts. The organization wants to endow funds to be used for future maintenance so that the town incurs no costs.

This is the second-largest fundraising campaign in Darien, the first being the one for the library, which cost $28 million.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews