David Stone

A hoped for spring reopening of Octagon Field, most frequently used by soccer players, will be delayed. On Monday, RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal reached out to the athletic community to explain.

Octagon Field: Pickup games continued for weeks after the official closing but before protective fencing went up.
Octagon Field: Pickup games continued for weeks after the official closing but before protective fencing went up.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

The news was not going to sit well with soccer enthusiasts any more than the Octagon Field's sudden emergency closing in August did. Reconstruction projects of any kind pose high risks for delay because, as we saw with Roosevelt Island Bridge helix and Tram platform repairs, crucial elements are unknown until work begins, hidden behind immediate facades that mask the full extent of necessary repairs.

"The Octagon Field project commenced on June 1 and anticipated 3 phases to the architects’ work: evaluation phase, design development phase and creation of construction documents," Rosenthal explained in an email.

"The evaluation phase was to be completed by July 2018 but was not completed until September. This was because the architects brought in 3 subcontractors for site surveys, permeability tests and video inspection primarily because the field was not draining properly. We had to ensure that the pipes were just clogged and not collapsed."

"Sorry," Rosenthal tells soccer enthusiasts, Octagon Field project is delayed

What Rosenthal did not say but seems apparent is that the last reconstruction project, eight years before, had not been undertaken with sufficient care. RIOC was determined not to repeat the mistake.

"The video inspection of the underground pipes showed major blockage," she reported, instigating an extensive, unforeseeable delay. "These pipes were then all cleaned out as far as possible by the end of August and the remaining cleaning out will be included in the construction phase."

A blog post elsewhere blamed the resignation of Steve Noone, Assistant Vice President of Capital Planning and Projects, for the delay, but that was minor and came after problems with the underground pipes were discovered and dealt with.

"In October and November," Rosenthal continued, "the architects developed the site and comfort station drawings (with a bit of a delay with the departure of our Steve Noone) and last month we received 60% drawings for comments which are being prepared right now."

People not involved in construction projects can be frustrated when legally mandatory due diligence, generally invisible to the public, holds things up.

A plan to publish an RFP, required by State law, in February means that a spring reopening isn't possible. Bids will have to received and evaluated and contracts awarded. All this is mandatory and requires time where a commercial business might take shortcuts and workarounds not available to government managers.

To speed up availability, RIOC intends "to have the field open for use before the entire project is completed."

For example, restroom rebuilds, if incomplete, will not hold up use of the field. 

"Sorry, but the field will not be available for use in the interim," Rosenthal concluded.

Asked to estimate when soccer players will race up and down newly installed turf, she declined. Too many elements remain unknown to raise hopes prematurely.