It was the home to the Group 3 boys state championship outdoor track team a little over a year ago, the undefeated, championship-winning football team 42 years ago, and the site of countless graduations in between.
Now it’s almost unrecognizable. But in a good way.
Deptford Township High School’s Joe Corbi and Jim Hawkins Spartan Stadium has undergone a facelift this summer. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the nearly-regular thunderstorms that have rolled through town, the $2 million turf project is nearing its finish line in time for the 2020-21 school year.
After breaking ground in March, days before schools all across the state were shut down, the installation of a turf field along with the expansion of the stadium’s track facilities are nearly complete.
Irv McFarland, the school’s athletic director and the son of the former longtime athletic director and coach of the same name, recently climbed to the top of the pressbox to get a look at the shiny, emerald green surface with the school’s logo at midfield and “DEPTFORD” and “SPARTANS” permanently imprinted in black and gold paint in each end zone.
“It almost didn’t even look like the same facility – it’s unbelievable,” McFarland said. “I spent a lot of my childhood with my dad, and went to all of the football games, so I’ve been at this field for 30 years. To see it totally transform into what it is now, it’s kind of hard to comprehend for me. It’s so exciting. It’s going to be a total gamechanger for our community and for our district.”
Deptford Township’s Board of Education gave the project a green light a year ago, signing on with the company FieldTurf, the same company that installed turf at Washington Township and Kingsway High Schools, for $2,003,527. Along with replacing the grass field with turf, the project includes expanding the track on the perimeter of Spartan Stadium from six lanes to an eight-lane, Olympic-size track. Additionally, there will be a new secondary pole vault pit, long jump and triple jump areas.
While the turf field should be completed by early September, in time for the current fall schedule, the track could take a little bit longer, but won’t interfere with sports taking place on the turf.
The Spartans football, field hockey and soccer teams will have a pristine new field and the highly-decorated track program will have the opportunity to have home field advantage in postseason track meets in the future, too.
“It’s pretty exciting,” McFarland said. “That was one of our big determining factors. This gives us the ability to host anything we want.”
Including home lacrosse games?
Deptford doesn’t have lacrosse programs and there currently isn’t a plan to add them in the near future (there aren’t any youth programs in the township). But since the sport has been growing steadily for the last two decades, school officials wanted to be proactive.
But all of the current teams should have the opportunity to play games and hold practices on the new grounds within the next month. According to the current state timeline, high school teams can resume practices on Sept. 14, roughly two weeks after schools open.
According to Gov. Phil Murphy’s comments last week, student athletes will be able to compete this fall no matter if schools are opting for in-person or virtual learning, although he’s leaving the final decision up to the NJSIAA, the state’s governing body for high school athletics.
“I was encouraged to hear what the governor said,” McFarland said. “From my standpoint of athletics and activities, it was a very positive thing. But I also get the realistic nature of what’s going on. The governor making that decision put a lot of honus and emphasis on each individual district. It’ll come down to Boards of Education and what they feel is safe and unsafe.
“As athletic director of course I’m going to say that we can do it and we can do it safely and I really do think we can, but ultimately I understand that none of us have gone through this. With the potential of doing it comes potential risk. I told my superintendent, I’m not envious of the decision that superintendents and Boards of Education are going to have to make. It’s tough. But I think it’s very important kids get back involved and start back with sports and extracurricular activities because they’re such a big part of the whole academic experience. And at the same time I get with the pandemic still going on pretty strong there’s no guarantee that nothing is going to happen.”
High school games are tentatively scheduled to begin Oct. 1. When Deptford takes the field, it’ll be doing so at a state of the art facility.