Thanksgiving Game Cancellation Stands

By on November 29, 2014

Centennial Field on Saturday morning.

Centennial Field on Saturday morning.

There will be no Thanksgiving football game between Verona and Caldwell high schools this year.

On Saturday morning, Verona Superintendent Rui Dionisio affirmed a decision made on Friday to cancel the game, a decision that Caldwell had appealed to the Super Essex Conference. On Wednesday afternoon, Verona High School had postponed the game from Thursday morning to Friday and indicated that it was possible that the game would be at Centennial Field, which belongs to the town, instead of on the lower field at VHS.

According to Verona Mayor Bob Manley, he emailed VHS Athletic Director Gary Farishian and Frank Ferrari, a football parent, on Tuesday afternoon to say that Centennial would be available for the game if it did not have to be shoveled or plowed. Members of the football team had volunteered to shovel the field.

“It is absolutely false that Verona Township did not allow the high school football team to play at Centennial Field,” Manley wrote by email on Saturday. “Verona offered the use Centennial on Tuesday afternoon when the troubling forecast was realized. We offered Centennial Field provided that the lower field at the high school was deemed unplayable, and Centennial Field was. It was then stipulated, and to which it was agreed by all concerned, that Centennial Field could not be plowed if it was covered in snow. I met with the Verona High School Athletic Director Gary Farishian, Verona Town Manager Joseph Martin, Verona Recreation Director Jim Cunningham, and the heads of Verona DPW and Buildings and Grounds at 8:00 AM Thanksgiving morning at Centennial Field. With 4 inches of snow on it, it was also deemed unplayable. Putting a plow on the field could severely damage the turf carpet, resulting in possibly tens of thousands of dollars for repair or replacement, and would not be allowed. I met again with Gary Farishian at 8:00 this morning to try and determine if the game could be played today at 10:00. It is still under a thick layer of snow and ice, and is still unplayable. To blame the ‘town’ for this would not only be completely wrong, but irresponsible!”

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It is possible for turf fields to be cleared of snow without damaging them or voiding their warranty. The Synthetic Turf Council has maintenance guidelines on its site, as do individual turf manufacturers. Centennial celebrated its eighth anniversary this June and Martin has repeatedly praised the town’s maintenance staff for their work on the field. The standard industry warranty on a turf field is eight years. It is not known what the warranty is on Centennial, which has been used for VHS soccer and lacrosse home games as well as youth football, soccer and lacrosse.

Several schools with turf fields in our area did clear them for play, including Montclair, Millburn and Weequahic. But Deputy Mayor Jay Sniatkowski said by phone that, unlike Verona, those schools have maintenance staffs to do the work. “We have public workers who also have other functions,” he said.

Contrary to rumors, the town did not ask the Board of Education to play for snow removal on the field or stands at Centennial. The town did post a police car to the parking lot behind the Community Center Annex last night. The officer on duty said he was there to “make sure that nobody went on the field”. The field and stand gates were locked at the time.

The decision on the field did not sit well with Councilman Michael Nochimson, who was not made aware of the decision until today. “It is inexcusable,” he said. “The Township should be in a position to assist and say Yes to any reasonable request made by our BOE, or any committee or commission in town. I am told there are rubber blade attachments for snowplows that do this without damage that are under $1,000. Other towns are plowing their fields. We should have a shared services agreement with those towns to borrow their equipment in an emergency. Other towns were able to play their Thanksgiving games. We should have been in the same position.” Nochimson said he wished he had been consulted on this decision by the town manager.

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That sentiment was echoed by Councilman Kevin Ryan. “I had no involvement in this process,” he said by email on Saturday morning. “I knew the game had been canceled from reading your Facebook posting on Friday. The mayor contacted me this morning and provided the town’s position. You will need to hear from the mayor, the manager and
any Board of Ed officials and draw your own conclusion.”

The game does not count as a forfeit for Verona. Caldwell High School will play Bernards High School on Sunday afternoon. Bernards’ holiday game at Delaware Valley High School had also been cancelled by the snow. According to one news report, Bernards football team shoveled the snow off their turf field themselves in an attempt to secure the game. That field opened in 2012.

Verona Police were at Centennial on Friday evening to make sure that no one went on the field, which was locked.

Verona Police were at Centennial on Friday evening to make sure that no one went on the field, which was locked.

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