Gowanda uncertain if Hillis Field will be used for graduation

GOWANDA – The Gowanda Central School has been left to clean up Hillis Field for the second time in recent years. The Board of Education heard an update on how cleanup is going at the field.

Superintendent of Building and Grounds Stephen Rozler said when the village started to flood on May 13, debris and mud covered the track and field. Even in the events of the day, the district only lost some beverages for the concession stand that were on a bottom shelf. He said on the home side of the field, there were about three to four inches of mud and about one inch on the visitor’s side.

“You can tell by the waters, we took a tremendous amount of mud down there. The worst part of the mud was from the bleachers and the front gates. That kind of lessened up as it went toward the visitor’s side. The entire inside of the complex had mud on the floor throughout the bathrooms and the concession stand areas,” Rozler said.

He said many of the drains on the field are clogged, causing water to sit on the field. There are some cracks and holes in the track, which the district will have to repair. Rozler said he is researching options for the track surface. Rozler thanked the village, the district and his crew, especially Jeremy Valone, Scott Tadt and Scott Pound. He said his crew was working for three days at Hillis Field to try to get the water and mud cleaned up.

“These guys won’t quit,” Rozler said referring to the cleanup efforts.

Rich’s Sports Turf, Designer Pools and village of Gowanda also brought equipment to help with the Fire Department also helped hose down the track and inmates from the nearby correctional facility helped to remove debris.

With the damage to the field, graduation is the big question. Rozler said it is too early to tell if graduation ceremonies will be able to be held on the field. He is hopeful though but is unsure if future storms and more rain could dampen the district’s plans. Rozler is hoping even if the entire field is unable to be used, the track will be able to be used for the graduates to sit.

“One of the reasons we never did it before was because we were always worried about damage from chairs. That whole front area where we would set (chairs) up, that’s where all the damage and holes are. We have to fix it anyway so we don’t see it doing that much more damage or causing that many more problems,” Rozler said.

Superintendent Charles Rinaldi said they have not ruled out the possibility of not using Hillis Field for graduation ceremonies. If the field does not work, the district has a backup plan of having the ceremony in the high school gym. This plan is always in place in case of rain on graduation.

Rozler said he and his crew will continue to slice the field to get air into the field to dry it out. By the second board meeting in June, the district will have a decision as to where graduation will be held.

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