It was a long time in the making.
After about four years of planning, the Abington School Board approved something of a strange lease at its meeting Tuesday night.
The school board entered into a 25-year lease agreement with Penn State Abington for Memorial Field, which is on Huntingdon Road between Susquehanna Road and Rosemont Lane.
The lease is interesting because, rather than paying rent, the university will make about $5 million in upgrades to the facility. In return, Penn State Abington’s athletic teams will be able to practice and compete on the grounds.
According to a presentation by Abington Assistant Superintendent Leigh Altadonna, some of the upgrades include:
- Installation of an artificial turf for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey (field hockey is a faster, better game on artificial turf, Altadonna said)
- Installation of an updated non-competition all-weather track
- Installation of new bleacher seating
- Installation of new fencing that maintains public access to the track and lower fields
- Renovation of the tennis courts
- Relocation of the softball field and
- Upgrades to the grass practice fields for soccer and lacrosse
While it’s still early in the process, Penn State Abington COO Dale Hollenbach said following the approval in the hallway that, “We’re hoping that [the project] comes in at under $5 million.” Penn State Abington Chancellor Karen Wiley Sandler said the money would come from the college’s capital fund.
Incidentally, while the property isn’t adjacent to the actual campus, Sandler said Memorial Field shares a boundary with some of the houses that the university owns on Cloverly Lane.
Penn State Abington’s athletic teams would use the facility daily from late August through October and also from March through April. Its men’s and women’s lacrosse and soccer teams would use the main field, and its softball team would use the lower field. Most of the games would be scheduled for early afternoons on weekends and would see about 50 or fewer spectators; on-site parking is adequate for the games, according to the presentation.
The school district would use the complex for its high school boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, the field hockey team, and it would serve as a back-up site for the lacrosse team. All in all, it would host about 30 school district games per year.
The community would also be able to use the facilities, including the walking track and the tennis courts. Altadonna said community groups, like the Abington Lacrosse Club, the Abington YMCA and Citizens and Police Together would also likely use the field.
As previously mentioned, the lease approved by the school board is for 25 years, with the possibility of two 10-year extensions. It is effective Sept. 1.
Interestingly, the lease may be terminated if the school district needs to use the site to build another elementary school. However, during the presentation, administrators said it might be possible to build a school on the lower half of the complex, thus not disturbing the new field.
Additionally, Penn State receives the right of first refusal should the school district put the property up for sale.
The school district will continue to maintain the property; Penn State would be responsible for trash removal during its events; and both entities would share any larger, capital costs. Both Penn State and the school district would patrol the site.
Of course, the lease is contingent on receiving land development approvals from Abington Township.
Altadonna said don’t expect a rejuvenated field next month — he said the project would likely take three to four years to complete.