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Turf’s up at Notre Dame

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Past and present Notre Dame administration are celebrating the announcement that an artificial turf field will be installed at the Welland high school in 2022. Pictured clockwise from the bottom left are vice-principal Kelly Majka, vice-principal Luigi Folinazzo, incoming principal Andrew Boon and retiring principal Ken Griepsma.

By Bernie Puchalski - July 5, 2021

Incoming Notre Dame principal Andrew Boon is delighted the Welland high school will join Blessed Trinity in having an artificial turf field built on school property in the spring and summer of 2022.

The Niagara District Catholic School Board recently announced it would spent $3 million to install the fields. Trustees also approved funding in annual budgets moving forward with a goal of ensuring all eight Catholic high schools in the board have turf fields in the future. As of now, only Saint Paul has a turf field.

“My sister tells me that I have luck that I don’t deserve and I feel incredibly grateful to walk in and get to be part of a process that these guys have worked so hard for for so many years. It is incredibly exciting,” Boon said. “I taught here, I went here, my kids go here and all that good stuff that goes along with it. I feel blessed.”

Retiring Notre Dame principal Ken Griepsma, also a Fighting Irish alumnus, is pleased to see the plan come to fruition.

“This is a long time coming. There was initially a plan in Niagara Catholic to do this a little more quickly but we are very, very pleased that we are having a turf field coming to Notre Dame,” he said. “It is going to a boon for our community. We have all kinds of sports played here and we have a very rich tradition.”

The school’s grass surface has been part of that tradition but it’s time to move forward.

“The field oftentimes is in rough shape with playing multiple sports on it. Later on in the football season especially, it is torn up,” Griepsma said.

There is also the safety factor.

“There is always a discussion about natural versus turf but that is really a professional sports discussion. When you are talking high school sports in Canada, your grass fields are tough to maintain,” Griepsma said. “It is a bit of a lottery in terms of how the surface is going to be and how safe it will be at any time. That consistency of surface will make a huge difference.”

He expects there will be community use of the field as well.

“We are pleased that the Niagara Catholic board has followed through with it and were able to budget this for us and Blessed Trinity at this time, and for all schools moving forward,” Griepsma said. “As a retiring principal, it is great to see.”

Boon won’t be sad to see the grass surface go.

“I remember as a teacher going out there and shovelling dirt, throwing grass seed in and doing stuff just for the upkeep,” he said. “Tim Bisci is the guy to talk about that because he did the majority of it.”

Bisci, the school’s senior football coach, describes the new turf field as a tremendous opportunity for the school both academically and athletically.

“As a classroom, it allows us to have outdoor physical education classes on a safe surface void of mud and water. No longer will we have to worry about wet shoes and socks because of dew in May, June and September.”

For the school’s teams, it will allow the soccer teams to play at the school in front of classmates, lacrosse will be able to host tournaments in April and May without doing damage to the field, and the football teams will not have to worry about playing on our field late in the season for risk of damage.

“We have seven teams that use the field throughout the year and the grass field was extremely difficult to keep in safe operation,” Bisci said.

Construction is supposed to take place in the spring and summer of 2022 with the field ready for next fall’s football season.

Board chair Larry Huibers said the decision ultimately benefits students.

“By making an investment in turf fields, we are ensuring that students coming to our high schools will find facilities on par with other schools in their communities,” he said. “We know that safety on the playing field is a key concern for students and their families, and providing them with safer, state-of-the-art facilities sends our communities the message that student safety is our No. 1 priority.”

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Alexander Kuska

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Principal: Chris Moscato

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Principal: Scott Root

St. Alexander

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Principal: Yvonne Benyo

St. Andrew

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St. Ann

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St. Augustine

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St. Kevin

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St. Mary

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Principal: Paolo Sirianni

Notre Dame College School   •   64 Smith Street    •   Welland, ON,  L3C 4H4   •  905-788-3060

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