David Stone
Frustrations led to tearing down Octagon Field fencing, earlier this year.
Frustrations led to tearing down Octagon Field fencing, earlier this year.
© David Stone / Roosevelt island Daily

Since the sudden closing of Octagon Field, early last summer, frustrations over how the closing was handled, perceived RIOC failures to follow up, communicate with residents and get moving on a fix have run the gamut from feverish to disgusted. We may be able to put some of that to rest as a plan to get the field reopened is in place, if in its earliest stages.

Infrastructure upgrades, a significant focus for RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal got a boost when John O'Reilly was hired as Chief Financial Officer, bringing years of construction oversight experience with him.

A result that should, in time, satisfy a large number of residents and other users is a path for replacing Octagon Field's artificial turf, allowing it to reopen. (A separate, independent contract will be awarded for rebuilding the public restrooms.)

O'Reilly told The Daily that RIOC hopes to award a contract to LanTek, this week, and for the work to begin as soon as possible.

Disrepair, a legacy of likely bad purchasing decisions and poor maintenance left the field in such bad shape last year that liability concerns prompted RIOC to make an emergency closing, a decision that landed badly with everyone and contributed to the closing of Riverwalk Bar & Grill, after nine years, when the business lost hundreds of customers overnight.

The first order of business will be to tear out the old carpet. Until that happens, all other expectations are contingent. 

While there have been tests of the drainage system, a true reading won't be possible until conditions under the carpet are exposed. It's been ten years since the installation, and nobody can be sure of the quality of workmanship, a decade in the past. RIOC's Board is on record as being repeatedly dissatisfied with work paid for and not performed or performed badly on other contracts.

So, strap on your seatbelts. It may be bumpy ride. Nobody's been down this road before.

I asked O'Reilly about his greatest concern over getting the field rebuilt and ready for players on time, this fall.

"Compression testing" was his immediate response.

Until the old carpeting is removed and compression tests are done, nobody knows if the underlying surface is firm enough to support the new carpet.

It could be a mixed bag with some sections fine, others not. With phenomenal good luck, the whole area may get a green light.

If any weak sections are found, remedial work will have to be completed before carpet installation begins. It's a wild card.

Even after the field reopens, hazards remain.

Artificial turf is vulnerable to abuse, and RIOC is exploring ways to enforce reasonable guidelines to prevent damage from spikes, high heels, foods spills and the like, all of which pose serious risks.

Since the field will not be entirely fenced in, it will always be at risk. One possible preventative may be cameras trained on entrances that will make users aware of being monitored and held responsible for damages.

Another short lifespan for the next artificial surface is something RIOC is determined to avoid.

Under the guidance of Senior Project Manager Prince Shah, who's also handling the Tram repair project, RIOC projects reopening Octagon Field, new carpet in place, some time in the fall. That will be perceived by many, especially soccer fans, as far too long, but whatever failures led to this situation, for now at least, restoring the field to full availability seems to have a clear path forward.