KINGSTON — One by one, Robin Santasania pulled about three dozen field hockey balls, lacrosse balls and baseballs out of a black fabric bag. The pieces of athletic equipment collected over the last three years are only a few of the ones she believes have sailed over the netting at a neighboring sports facility owned by Wyoming Seminary.
Neighbors of Klassner Field, the home turf for the college preparatory school’s field hockey and lacrosse teams since 2006, said they don’t know when the next errant ball will damage property or possible strike a pedestrian.
“One came in my backyard when my daughter was back there … This one missed me by a foot,” said Santasania, 48, of Chestnut Avenue, holding up a field hockey ball that she said nearly struck her Thursday while she was walking her dog.
According to The Times Leader’s archives, residents warned members of Kingston Council about “the safety of their children and the damage that could be done … from errant balls” leaving the field during a meeting on May 1, 2006. The plan to proceed with the field was approved by council on June 5, 2006, and construction began in July of that year.
“Every single thing that we said was going to happen — that the school said was not going to be a problem — is a problem. Every single thing,” said Trish Hoskins, 47, of Chestnut Avenue.
Small ball, big concern
Lacrosse and field hockey are played with solid rubber balls weighing about five ounces. It might not sound like much, but Santasania had numerous photographs of damage to her home, garage and a minivan that she said was caused by projectiles from Klassner Field’s games and practices.
“They split my aluminum (siding),” Santasania said when asked how fast the objects might be coming over the netting along Hoyt Street.
Neighbors were told that the school has insurance to handle their property damage claims.
“As soon as you fix one, there’s going to be another one. That’s not the point,” Santasania said. “I have a right to be in my backyard. I was here first. I’ve been here for 16 years.”
For Hoskins, a resident of Chestnut Street since 1989, the greater issue is the amount of noise coming from the field. The scoreboard alone jolts her when she’s in her living room, she said.
Gail Smallwood, associate director of communications for Wyoming Seminary, said the 18-foot-high fencing and netting surrounding the field already exceeds what is required by Kingston zoning requirements. The school hasn’t ruled out looking into higher netting, she added.
Smallwood said she believes many of the balls at Klassner Field are stopped by the netting and then roll into Chestnut Avenue and Hoyt Street from just outside the fence. Neighbors don’t think those balls are the ones causing damage.
Hoskins and Santasania said they’d like to see some sort of noise barrier and higher fencing put in place.
The school has been made aware of problems in the past, said Smallwood, and encouraged those living around Klassner Field to speak directly with Wyoming Seminary President Dr. Kip Nygren.
“We are very committed to maintaining communications with our neighbors,” she said. “We are a neighbor. We live in this community. We encourage them to contact us. If a ball hits a portion of their home or some other aspect of their property, we’d like them to call us and tell us that. We want to work with them to make it right.”
Residents fear the problems will worsen when two new fields at the refurbished Nesbitt Field are expected to be completed this fall. Construction that’s been going on six days a week since January has shaken their homes regularly, said Hoskins and Santasania.
“I just can’t understand how they got two more fields in front of my house approved when I’m having all of these other issues,” Santasania said.