Field of Dreams: The Story Behind Wall High School’s New State-of-the-Art Football Field
When the Wall High School football team takes the field on Friday night for a home game against Colts Neck, it will be stepping foot onto one of the most advanced playing surfaces in New Jersey.
And guess what?. It’s still natural grass, not artificial turf.
Prior to this season, the Wall Knights Family Foundation funded and installed a state-of-the-art professional-level natural grass field along with new goalposts at Wall High School. The new field saw its first football action when the Crimson Knights, ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, scored a 36-0 victory over Toms River North on Sept. 24.
Looking at pictures taken from the press box, it’s clear the field is beautiful. Up close, it is apparent this is no typical high school grass field.
It all started last fall when the WKFF replaced the grass with new sod rolls at the Wall American Youth Football (AYF) field. Wall was one of just four organizations that held games amid the COVID-19 pandemic last fall and hosted approximately 135 games on their field. The constant wear and tear combined with a few major storms turned the field into a mud pit. At the end of the season, they used between $30,000 to $40,000 of their funds to purchase sod and reached out to the entire Wall football community to help with the installation. Parents, coaches, and players from the youth all the way up through the high school level came out in late November and got the job done.
From there, the WKFF, which was founded by Mike Mozeika, James Cadigan, and Brian Mulholland, all of whom are alumni who played at Wall in the late 1990s, turned its attention to the high school field. The plan was to do just as they had done at the AYF field, purchasing sod rolls and getting everybody together to install the new turf before the scholastic season began.
“We figured we had the manpower and the ability so maybe we can help out the high school,” said Cadigan, who is the Wall AYF President, an assistant coach for the high school team, and a former Crimson Knights standout. “But the timeline we were working with, it was going to be in the middle of the summer and maybe we might not get 160 people out there helping like we got at the end of November.”
While searching for a possible alternative, the company Tuckahoe Turf Farms was brought up, and it turned out to be the dream solution.
The Hammonton-based company is a premier supplier of natural grass surfaces for homeowners, contractors, and athletic fields. The playing fields at Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles), Citizens Bank Ballpark (Philadelphia Phillies), Heinz Field (Pittsburgh Steelers), and Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), among others, were all done by Tuckahoe Turf Farms.
“They came up in a meeting and then we started doing our research,” Cadigan said. “We reached out to them and they were awesome.”
Before installation could begin, Wall High School had to meet certain criteria that Tuckahoe Turf Farms requires for their turf. There are exact specifications such as the PH of the soil, an irrigation plan, how high it can be mowed, what specific fertilizer to use, a maintenance plan to be implemented after each use, and a proper drainage system. The grass is also a low-cut variety that is mowed with a reel mower, similar to how golf courses are maintained.
Anyone who has ever been to a football game at Wall knows of the drainage issues after some wet weather. According to Cadigan, when the new addition was put on the school two decades ago, all the drainage funneled to the lowest point of the property, which was at the football field. That had to be addressed before the new surface could be put down, but fortunately, a new system was installed last spring.
“This wouldn’t have been able to happen without fixing the drainage issues,” Cadigan said, “Our new facilities manager, Nick Moretta, has been awesome. Now it’s state-of-the-art, draining and pumping all the water out.”
Once all the requirements were met, Tuckahoe Turf Farms came out and installed the new surface, which was ready to be played on a week later.
“When you see it and actually walk on it you can tell it’s a different type of field than you’ve ever been on,” Cadigan said.
Following games, the turf receives the same care as a professional-level field would, including fixing any divots or damage. The field essentially looks brand new for every game.
The Wall High School football field project is the first of what the WKFF plans on being a series of large-scale improvements throughout the town. As the foundation has grown, so have its goals.
The original idea behind the WKFF was to get seven board members who were fathers of football players at different levels of Wall football, from AYF all the way through high school. Their initial mission was to help raise money for the football programs, which started with new uniforms for the entire youth program – helmets, shoulder pads, and jerseys that matched the high school team. Next could be something for the Little League baseball program, a park in town, or other sports teams.
“This was seven football dads who wanted to be a part of something to help football players throughout town, and now we want to see what else we can do,” Cadigan said. “We’re not going to take money from a local business to give to the booster club for uniforms or a party at the end of the year. We want to go after big-name companies who have programs available to help out communities. We want to attack larger-scale projects and let the parents’ club do what they do; work alongside them and not step on their toes.”
The board members for the Wall Knights Family Foundation are Mike Mozeika, James Cadigan, Bryan Mulholland, Dave Sasso, Dean Marabeti, Ken Dadd, and Mike Byrne.
Wall returns to action this Friday night and will look to even its season record at 2-2. The game is also SSN’s The Block GameDay Countdown Game of the Week. Look for the Shore Sports Network SUV and stop by our table to enter our contest where the winner will receive dinner for six along with limousine transportation to The Butcher’s Block in Long Branch.