By Alison Langley, Niagara Falls Review
Friday, September 16, 2016 4:27:55 EDT PM
For Lauren Raimondo, her field of dreams is always artificial.
"Playing on turf is a bit of a faster game because you know the surface is going to be pristine. With grass, sometimes you don't get the best field and that can affect the whole game," said Raimondo, 17, a member of Canada Soccer's Women's National U-17 team.
The Grade 12 student at Saint Paul Catholic High School said she was thrilled by the recent announcement that her school will be the first high school with the Niagara Catholic District School Board to have an artificial turf sports field.
The Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education on Wednesday pledged $200,000 towards the cost of a new turf field at Saint Paul.
The approximate cost of the project will be between $900,000 and $1-million, which includes the field and lighting.
The synthetic sod, expected to be play-ready by September 2017, will have greater durability and lower maintenance costs compared to a grass field.
Principal Brad Johnstone said the new field will benefit not only Saint Paul students but also the community as a whole as the field will be a shared-use facility with the city of Niagara Falls.
"We have a tremendous relationship with the city through our sharing of Michelson Park," he said.
The turf will be a multi-use field for sports such as lacrosse, football, soccer, and rugby.
"It will be nice to have a new facility to play on and also for kids who come out to watch the games," said Lauren Dempsey, 17, a member of the school's athletic council.
The new field will be in addition to a number of projects currently underway at the Windermere Road school. Work is almost completed on a new nutrition lab, weight room, and cardio room.
"Saint Paul has many elite athletes and it's great that we're bringing them the tools they need to continue to grow as players," said Raimondo, also a member of the athletic council.
Fellow council member Aden Wegelin agreed.
"We're all very grateful," the 17-year-old said. "It gives us an opportunity to excel in practices and games."
The Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education has also launched a turf field capital campaign to raise funds to add turf fields at all eight Niagara Catholic high schools over the next few years.
The foundation has pledged $1.2-million, while additional funds will come from community partners, alumni, and donors.
"This is a fabulous addition to our schools and will be a benefit to our current and future students and the communities we serve," said John Crocco, the school board's education director.
"These new fields will not only be used by our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, they will be open to sports groups and other organizations throughout Niagara."