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Franny Lew athletic fields to get top-of-line surfacing

Francis Lewis High School students should be able to enjoy FieldTurf-resurfaced baseball and soccer fields by next year if things go according to plan, thanks to $3 million worth of funding from the Take the Field organization.

The resurfacing of fields with artificial turf is part of a plan for overall renovation of the Fresh Meadows school's outdoor athletic facilities that is scheduled to begin in July and end six months later.

"I think it'll be a big plus for our physical education program," said Arnie Rosenbaum, the assistant principal of physical education and athletic director at Francis Lewis, which serves 3,800 students.

Other renovations that have been planned include resurfacing the track with red all-weather material; resurfacing the softball field with FieldTurf; resurfacing tennis and handball courts; installing of new long jump, pole vault, shot put and high jump areas; installing a scoreboard, water fountains, outdoor electric outlets and a new set of bleachers; and reworking the drainage system for outdoor fields.

"I think it's going to make my job a little easier," Rosenbaum said. "I'll be able to spend a lot less time on the phone scheduling and worrying about the rain."

FieldTurf is a top-of-the-line playing surface that the New York Giants Stadium was resurfaced with last month.

Take the Field is a non-profit organization started in 2000 with the mission of rebuilding public schools' athletic facilities. So far, the organization has worked with the private sector, city government and the Department of Education to rebuild 32 public schools' facilities, including those at 11 Queens high schools. Funding for projects averages about $3 million for each school.

"Since the mid-1970s, facilities had fallen into great disrepair. Fields had no grass, courts had cracks, handball courts had graffiti, tracks had big pits and potholes - the facilities were a mess," said Mary Musca, the executive director of Take the Field. "We picked the worst first. We said, 'Where do they need us the most?' and just started working through the list."

Renovations at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside recently were completed. At a ceremony Tuesday, the school renamed its baseball field the New York Post Field in honor of the newspaper, which donated $250,000 to the educational institution.

Other Queens high schools with athletic facilities renovated by Take the Field include Flushing, Bayside, William C. Bryant, Forest Hills, Jamaica, Martin Van Buren, Springfield Gardens and Campus Magnet. Renovations at Newtown High School in Elmhurst are scheduled to be completed at the same time as renovations for Francis Lewis.

A major part of the construction at Francis Lewis will be to fix the outdoor drainage system, which does not function well and leaves the school's tracks and fields under water after heavy rains, Rosenbaum said. A combination of improved drainage and FieldTurf resurfacing should enable teams to play outside much more often and to cancel less games because of weather.

"We've had it where it rained on a Sunday and you couldn't play till Wednesday," Rosenbaum said. "(FieldTurf) dries up quicker. I've been told if it (the rain) stops by 1 p.m., by 4 p.m. the game is ready to go. It's a matter of hours."

Another advantage of having FieldTurf is that lines on the fields will have to be repainted much less often. Currently, the custodial staff at Francis Lewis repaints lines once every few days, Rosenbaum said. With FieldTurf, lines will only have to be repainted once every season.

Rosenbaum said renovations to the school's outdoor facilities, which are used by community athletic groups as well as students, would not be happening if it were not for Take the Field, which was founded by New York Giants co-owner Bob Tisch, philanthropist Tony Kiser and New York City civic leader Richard Kahan.

"To resurface the track alone probably costs a couple hundred thousand dollars, so this was like a lifesaver for us," Rosenbaum said.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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