Moncton High student donates $1,000 toward new football field
Ed Skiffington Alumni Field expected to be ready for football games, community sports teams this fall
Five years after Moncton High opened at its new location, principal Mike Belong has his fingers crossed that the Purple Knights will be playing football on a brand new "high performance" field by this fall.
It's a $2.25-million project that will include artificial turf, bleachers for 700 fans, lights, a scoreboard and eventually a field house with locker rooms.
When the brand new high school opened at its controversial location on the outskirts of the city in 2015, Belong was shocked with the poor quality and size of the sports field that came with it.
I said, 'You mean to tell me, at a high school where we have kids going to play varsity athletics, that this is the standard?- Mike Belong, Moncton High principal
"It's not much of a field," Belong said of the lumpy, grassy lot next to the school that's surrounded by chain-link fence.
When Belong went to the provincial government to question why the field wasn't large enough to play football, and why it was so uneven, he was told it had been built to meet all of the specifications for a multi-use playing field.
A regulation football field was never in the plans.
"I said, 'You mean to tell me, at a high school where we have kids going to play varsity athletics, that this is the standard? It's not acceptable.'"
Since then, the football team has been forced to travel to Rocky Stone Field at Centennial Park, which is roughly 15 kilometres away, for practices and games.
Belong, members of the Parent School Support Committee and Moncton High alumni have been working to find a solution, and make the field a gathering place for students.
Some of the money for the new field is being raised in the community.
Student steps up with big donation
Grade 12 student David-Daniel Pendleton, who started Grade 9 at Moncton High in the fall of 2015, said that as a rookie on the football team, he had high expectations when he arrived. "I thought, 'It's a brand new high school, it's going to be amazing.'"
Then, he said, he saw the field.
During his high school years, he witnessed many rolled ankles on the uneven ground, and unsanitary conditions for tackling, thanks to the Canada geese that are attracted to the short grass.
"There's so much goose poop on it. Football is a rough sport so if we get injured, if we cut our elbow or get a rash then there's feces on the ground that is going into our cuts, and we're stepping on it, we're rolling around."
It's just sad that I won't be able to play on this field, but it's going to be great to come back and watch other fellow players.- David-Daniel Pendleton, Grade 12 student
Pendleton, who also played hockey for Moncton High and is a longtime hockey referee, recently received the Ron Smythe Memorial Scholarship for outstanding community leadership.
Along with $1,500 to help him pay his tuition at the University of Moncton this fall, he was awarded $1,000 to donate to a charity or cause of his choice.
"I knew right away," Pendleton said of his decision to give the entire $1,000 to the new field at Moncton High.
"It's just sad that I won't be able to play on this field, but it's going to be great to come back and watch other fellow players … now I can be part of a brand new journey," he said.
Belong said he teared up when Pendleton came to him with the donation.
"He gets an award and he thinks of us first. That's the quality of students we have here at Moncton High."
New field about more than football
The provincial government and the City of Moncton have each contributed $750,000 to what will be a community field, with alumni now being asked to help with the remaining $750,000.
"I've been out many evenings, presenting to very successful alumni asking, 'Can you help us with this or that,' and I haven't had anybody really say no yet," Belong said.
A fundraising campaign was recently launched to build the new field, which will have improved drainage, allowing it to be used for all kinds of activities.
"I could have a soccer game going this way, I could have kids playing field hockey going this way, I could have some playing ultimate Frisbee this way," Belong said. "It gives you so many more opportunities because physical education is something we're lacking in the province."
The field will be named in honour of Ed Skiffington, who taught physical education and coached football, basketball and track and field at Moncton High for the better part of three decades.
Skiffington, who passed away in 2014, has been recognized by the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame for his dedication to sports leadership and education.
"He's a special, special guy," Belong said. "He taught here when I graduated in 1984. He started the traditions like the Purple Knights and and our royal colours … he's an icon in this province."
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Belong hopes the new field will carry on those traditions and help to overcome the challenges that come when 99 per cent of your 1,200 students are bused to school.
Moncton High's remote location, which is 10 kilometres from its original spot in the city, means student participation in school clubs and sports is well below the national average.
Belong said the new field will give more students the opportunity to play sports and to cheer for their teams, since games won't have to be held elsewhere as they are now.
"You'll have a Friday night lights here now … you can come here after school, we can have a barbecue, we can get ready for a homecoming game," said Belong.
"It's going to be a facility for the city and for the community."
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