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Turf for Tanners

Volunteers have been staffing a donation table at the Northshore Mall this month to raise support for an artificial turf field at the high school.

“We’ve been trying for a while to get support for a turf field because of the drainage problems [at Coley Lee Field],” says Athletic Director Phil Sheridan.

The latest endeavor in this effort is a donation table that’s been sitting inside the this month and staffed by a number of volunteers, all eager to get a new playing field for their respective sports. Sheridan said student-athletes at PVMHS and youth sports teams have all been rotating four-hour shifts to man the table.

Sheridan said Interim Superintendent Dr. Herb Levine spoke with the mall’s general manager, Mark Whiting, about setting up a table for donations, and Whiting agreed, letting them put a table near Sears for the month. And so began the campaign, “Turf for Tanners.”

But the fundraising goal? “None whatsoever,” Sheridan said.

The cost for an artificial turf field is in the neighborhood of $1 million, but Sheridan doesn’t have his hopes so high that they could pull in that kind of money at the table. Rather, he says he’s trying to get the information out there – spread awareness of the need for the field.

Sheridan noted the city of Beverly was successful in obtaining an open space grant from the state (Peabody is in the process of working on an application) for about $500,000 and then raised the rest by going to the public and the business community in Beverly. And now, the Panthers have a nice new turf field at the high school, $850,000 later.

Beverly is significantly smaller than Peabody both in size and population.

“If Beverly can do it, we can do it,” Sheridan said.

Hank Lucas, representing Peabody Youth Lacrosse, has been doing shifts at the table with his two young sons, Drew and Johnny. Lucas reiterated the “dire” need for a modern turf field at PVMHS.

“The results have been good thus far. Even in this difficult economy, folks seem to want to participate,” he said earlier this month.

“I’m sure that it might have something to do with my little salesmen approaching them politely with a smile on their faces,” he added.

Anyone familiar with the high school’s existing field, well knows the mud-pit it becomes after any heavy rains.

“When it rains, it takes a week to dry out,” Sheridan said, laughing ruefully. That’s because the soil under the sod contains a lot of clay, which doesn’t drain very easily, and there’s a lot of ledge as well, which only exacerbates the problem. It also makes injuries to players more likely – no serious ones have occurred yet – and at times leads to game cancellations.

Sheridan said the last couple of weeks of the fall season – this year particularly – the high school teams had to look elsewhere for playing fields due to the condition of the field. does have a turf field and graciously allowed the girls’ soccer team to practice there on its way to a .

Sheridan said most sports team at the high school need to use the field on a regular basis.

While the process continues to pursue the state open space grant, school officials, in the meantime, on a temporary fix by adding a soil mix to the field and repairing areas where sod has eroded.

Volunteers staff the mall donation table Wednesday to Sunday, generally 4-8 p.m. on weekdays and then all day on the weekends. You can find “Turf for Tanners” next to the escalator near .

Sheridan said the plans thus far were to man the table through this Friday, Dec. 23. Those who feel inclined to donate can do so by cash or check in any amount.

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