In an effort to improve student safety and foster athletic excellence, Tabor is embarking on a substantial project to refurbish two athletic fields and improve Tabor’s eco-footprint. “We have identified conditions in both the Upper and Lower Chapel Fields that raise concerns about the potential risk of injuries,” shares Joe Irvine, Director of Facilities. These fields will undergo significant renovations to ensure their future suitability and safety for Tabor's active student body.
The Lower Chapel Field—the larger of the two—will be replaced with a turf field, which will enhance maintenance efficiency and provide 10-12 years of field longevity. The renovation that cost approximately $1.6 million and has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from longtime supporter John Fish ’78, P’15. His donation is aimed specifically at improving our sporting facilities. “Tabor Academy and school athletics played an incredibly important role in my life,” says Fish. “Before I attended Tabor, my learning difference of dyslexia was a significant challenge for me. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself or my abilities. But Tabor saved me.” Fish credits his Tabor football coach, Dick Duffy ’56, with seeing his potential and giving him the confidence to succeed on the field and in the classroom. “To say my experience playing football at Tabor changed my life is an understatement. My personal story at Tabor was the main inspiration behind my contribution to the new turf field project. It is a special place for me and my family.”
Fish goes on to say, "The athletic fields at Tabor have always been synonymous with teamwork, hard work, collaboration, grit, discipline, and competitiveness. These are all qualities that are aligned with my personal and professional values and interests, which is what makes my support for this project so extra special.”
According to Fish, "Competition and athletics have always been an important part of the Tabor Academy culture. The new turf field will demonstrate Tabor’s strong commitment to athletics and will also strengthen the brand of the school in the community and with students and alumni. Past and present members of the Tabor family will be proud to host competitive events at this beautiful new field.”
“To ensure the highest quality, we are retaining the same company that currently oversees our turf field maintenance,” Irvine says, noting that the consistency of care will ensure that all Tabor’s turf fields are held to the highest standards. “This project is starting in September 2023, yet we have devised a plan ensuring continuity of all sports and activities for upcoming competitions,” says Irvine, who has worked closely with coaches and members of the Athletics and Co-Curriculars Office to coordinate schedules and ensure all teams have adequate space to practice and compete while the project is underway.
The Upper Chapel field will maintain its grassy character but will be stripped and reseeded to improve its condition. The decision to keep the Upper Chapel Field grass-covered was largely motivated by significant cost savings, with a total estimated project budget of $160,000, which is categorized under deferred maintenance. While it will not be ready for fall sports, it is anticipated to be available for use by spring. Both fields will be significantly safer following these transformations.
The renovation process required a detailed erosion control plan to be submitted to the Town of Marion and necessitated a special permit. “As part of this plan, we are implementing a special drainage system that will sit beneath the turf,” Irvine shares. This new system will collect and store rainwater for use around campus, providing much-needed irrigation for the currently parched upper campus areas. “This not only benefits the landscape but also saves our facilities team significant time and energy. And we hope this initiative will alleviate the recurring flooding issues we've experienced in the Field House,” notes Irvine.
“We also plan to conduct additional landscaping to improve spectator areas for both fields, increase safety measures through the addition of netting, and improve accessibility for all,” he adds. Looking further ahead, Irvine and his team have plans for improvements to the track field, expanding its utility for other activities. This work will be undertaken in-house with new fill, seed, and sand application.
An On-Going Commitment
“I often say we must never forget where we came from,” shares Fish. “I will never forget my experience at Tabor and how it changed my life forever. Tabor helped put me on a path to realize my dreams. I will forever be committed to the School by the Sea and its mission.”
Tabor and donors like Fish remain committed to providing the best facilities for students, both in their academic and recreational pursuits. “I am a staunch supporter of all Tabor’s programs, initiatives, and achievements,” adds Fish, “but I am most proud of the school’s athletics programs because of my past experience representing Tabor on the playing fields. School athletics teach young people so many important lessons in life, including teamwork, integrity, sportsmanship, and hard work. These are lessons they will take with them for the rest of their lives, just as I have done.”
These updates will not only enhance safety and functionality but also cultivate a more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly environment for all who call Tabor home. “I hope my support for Tabor will have an impact on the school’s future success and will have a ripple effect across many future generations of Tabor students and staff,” says Fish. “Tabor played an important role in my life, so I feel it is important that I give back to the school so it can do the same for other young leaders of tomorrow.”