Sinkhole swallows new turf field Warwick’s $2.5 million facility debuted in 2010
By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer
A sizable sinkhole has severely damaged the high school athletic department’s crown jewel — the $2.5 million artificial turf facility at Joseph Grosh Field.
Warwick School District officials said last Friday’s torrential downpour caused the damage, which is still being assessed. Administrators met Monday to discuss the extent of the problem, related costs and its approach for repairs. How this will impact summer camps, the Summer Showcase soccer tournament and fall sports remains to be seen.
"Review of surveillance video shows that it occurred after the rain on Friday (four-plus inches), and that the earth was buckling on Saturday," said Lori Zimmerman, public relations director for the school district. "Additional rain opened the hole."
On a positive note, the turf fabric was not damaged, although it was separated from the macadam of the adjoining track.
"Plans are to roll the fabric back, examine the opening, and create a plan to address it as quickly as possible," Zimmerman said. "The insurance company has been contacted and a claim is open at this time. It is too preliminary to have any costs or potential reimbursements at this time."
When the field was constructed two years ago, Zimmerman explained, extensive testing for sinkholes was done, and systems were put in place to address drainage, including a two foot deep bed of clay covered by six inches of stone and stone dust.
"Unfortunately, our area is notorious for sinkholes, and this one could have been present for a very long time," she said. "The heavy rains in the fall and this spring have contributed to this problem."
"Thankfully, we weren’t having graduation there," she added.
Warwick’s class of 2012 commencement will be held June 11 at Calvary Church in Manheim Township; however, Grosh Field has hosted dozens of graduation ceremonies in the past. It is also the home field for the Warriors football team.
This fall, the Warriors had already been slated to play their first two regular season games on the road at back-yard rival Manheim Central on Aug. 31 and then at Conestoga Valley on Sept. 7. Their first scheduled home game is Friday, Sept. 14 against Ephrata in the annual battle for the George Male Trophy.
Warwick Athletic Director John Kosydar said the best-case scenario is for them to be able to get on the turf when fall pre-season practices begin on Monday, Aug. 13. His hope is that they will be able to get on the turf when they host Ephrata in mid-September.
"Really, that’s the only place we can play football games," Kosydar said. "The other games, the other practices, they can be on the other fields that we have. But as far as playing a football game, that’s our only one with two goal posts that’s set up to handle a game. We don’t have any other site that can handle a game, especially a varsity game with all the spectators we get and stuff like that."
Asked if the thought has entered his mind yet that they might have to play the entire football season on the road, Kosydar said, "Yes, thinking worst-case scenario. (In 2010), they started doing the site work and stuff like that in the spring, but they put all the turf in during the summer, so I’m hoping it can get done in a reasonable time frame … I’ve even thought about the possibility of going to Manheim Central or Manheim Central if they’re away and we’re supposed to be home and (asking), ‘Can we rent your facility and have our home contest there?’"
While Grosh Field is the only site available at Warwick to handle football games, an argument could be made that field hockey would be the fall sport most affected if the Lady Warriors had to play on grass.
"If we had to play on the grass, yes, that would definitely make a huge, huge impact on the team," Warwick field hockey coach Bob Derr said. "You just can’t do all the skill stuff. You can do some skill stuff, but the grass has to be short and right now, it’s not short and it’s not worn down."
The Warwick youth field hockey program has been using the turf field this spring, and on Monday night when they moved onto the grass, there was a noticeable difference.
"I can give you this relationship — it’s like watching NASCAR racing all year and then going to a turtle race," Derr said. "That’s the analogy. That’s what it was like (Monday) night. For young kids trying to learn the game, they can’t propel the ball. The ball hardly moves. Luckily, no one got hurt."
According to Zimmerman, the "very large" sinkhole was discovered and reported to the athletic department Sunday afternoon. The building and grounds department, as well as Superintendent Dr. April Hershey, were then notified. The photos used with this article were taken by Dr. Hershey.
According to the Warwick Township municipal website (warwicktownship.org), "sinkholes are a common problem in Lancaster County, where we have limestone soil. Heavy rains and storm water run-off aggravate sinkhole problems by flushing surrounding soil down the hole."
When asked how often Lititz deals with sinkholes, Lititz mayor and fire chief Ron Oettel said, "With some frequency."
"I couldn’t say if they are more common here," he continued, "but I suspect we are a bit more prone to them around here because of our exceptionally high water table and volume of water beneath us. I know that in the small development off Green Acre Road (behind Hosanna Christian Fellowship), there have been, I believe, a dozen or more sinkholes in the last couple of years. Apparently, one has appeared pretty recently."
"Warwick School District has dealt with multiple sinkholes in the past and has extensive experience in their repair," read a statement posted Tuesday on the school district website.
The damaged area at the high school, near the 20 yard line at the refreshment stand end of the field, was cordoned off with police tape Monday for public safety. Construction professionals, including a geo-technician, took their first look at the sinkhole late Monday afternoon.
"We look forward to having the repair completed quickly and getting our field back up and running normally as soon as possible," said Dr. Hershey. More SINKHOLE, page A18