Renovations underway on Buccaneers Stadium in Burrell

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Sunday, June 7, 2020 | 7:09 PM


As soon as the Burrell School Board voted unanimously in March to renovate Buccaneers Stadium with artificial turf and replace the surrounding track, anticipation began.

A time to begin the project was negotiated, taking into account the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and ground finally was broken late last month.

“It’s great for the kids,” Burrell athletic director Drake D’Angelo said. “Ultimately, it’s about having better surfaces for our athletes. It’s going to benefit all of our outdoor programs, whether it be baseball or softball that can have a better surface to practice on in the early parts of their season. I’ve seen posts on social media, and I’ve talked to a number of people. Everyone is pretty excited.”

D’Angelo said the new surfaces not only will benefit teams but will be a proper and safe setting for such things as band practices and gym classes.

W.G. Land Co. LLC, of Acme, is in charge of the project.

An early phase, installing the drainage system, has begun. From there, a foundation will be laid before the turf can be installed.

“According to the company’s timeline, the turf should be completed within the week of the Fourth of July,” D’Angelo said.

The project then will shift to the track and the surrounding track and field elements such as the jump pits. The pole vault area will be moved closer to the track. The fencing surrounding the field complex also will be put in place.

“All of the kids and the coaches were thrilled to know it was going to be done and done right,” Bucs track and field coach Steve White said. “The past couple of years have been a struggle with the cracks in the track and other things. Our maintenance staff did a great job with keeping it as good and usable as possible. Like everything else, it has a certain shelf life. The school board was gracious enough to invest for the community and the kids.”

Even though the field is expected to be completed by early next month, D’Angelo said that for safety reasons, it will be off-limits until the overall project is done.

“It will still be a construction zone with people working in that area,” he said.

D’Angelo said he anticipates work wrapping up in late August.

The first regular-season contest at the stadium is an Aug. 28 Week Zero football game against Mt. Pleasant. Burrell will scrimmage Aug. 22 at Jeannette.

“If the project is done for the Mt. Pleasant game, we are planning to host them,” Burrell football coach Shawn Liotta said. “If not, the agreement we have set up, we will adjust and go there to play. That game will be played. Heck, we’d play that game anywhere. They knocked us out of the playoffs last year. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to play against those guys.”

The Bucs are set to travel to Indiana on Sept. 4 before returning home against Highlands on Sept. 11.

“I am so happy the school district decided to go in that direction,” Liotta said.

“There is something to be said for old-school football on grass and in the mud. But just in terms of safety, we are going a much better route with a consistent surface day-in and day-out.

“It’s not just about football for me. I am a resident of the school district, and I think it’s wonderful for the student-athletes and the students overall to be able to use the field and the new track for a long time to come.”

The boys soccer team scrimmages at Highlands on Aug. 26 and will play at the season-opening Kiski Area tournament on Sept. 5 and 6.

A matchup at rival Deer Lakes on Sept. 8 precedes the scheduled home opener against Leechburg on Sept. 10.

The girls soccer team, 6-0 at home last year en route to an undefeated regular season and its first section championship since 2005, scrimmages at South Park and Fox Chapel before opening at the Butler tournament Sept. 5 and 6.

The Bucs will travel to Kiski Area on Sept. 9 before their scheduled home opener against Mt. Pleasant on Sept. 12.

“It wasn’t easy to play games on that old (grass) turf, but both teams were competing on it, kind of leveling the playing field, so to speak,” Burrell girls soccer coach Frank Nesko said. “We knew what we were dealing with and prepared accordingly. If you asked opponents, they might have a different story about playing there, but I don’t think it impacted the outcomes of any games. Still, the players can’t wait for everything to be done.”

Summer and preseason workouts for football will be at the traditional practice field, affectionately known as “The Dust Bowl” above the school near St. Mary’s Cemetery.

“Everybody loves the Dust Bowl,” Liotta said. “It’s probably the most unique practice facility. We are up there kind of by ourselves. There have been challenges with the ground that is not totally level, and we have to shorten some things because of the available space. It will be nice to be able to get out there and practice on the actual surface where we will play.”

Practices for the soccer teams, D’Angelo said, will begin at the fields at Kotecki Park.

“We just have to be patient as everything is completed, but it will be a great feeling to be able to step on the field for the first time to practice and play,” Nesko said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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