UPDATE: Ceremony celebrating field improvements before Turkey Day tilt

Spectators will see a lot of Gael orange when they visit the refurbished Edward C. Finn Stadium at Shelton High School.

The facility’s new field, running track, lighting and related improvements are now complete, and the school’s distinct shade of orange is prominently on display. Gael orange can be found in the “S” logo at midfield, in football field yard line numbers, and most noticeably in the track that goes around the field.

Shelton High Athletic Director John Niski said the contractor told him it’s the only orange track the company has ever installed. A ceremony to recognize the stadium upgrades will take place Thanksgiving Day at approximately 9:30 a.m. before the kickoff of the Derby/Shelton football game.

Niski described the work as “a cooperative effort” involving the mayor, aldermen, Board of Education, school superintendent and Public Building Improvement Committee.

“All these people worked together and made it possible,” Niski said.

Both the field and track were worn out and needed to be replaced for the safety of athletes and students who use the facility during physical education classes, said Niski, adding “We got great use of the product but it was time to replace it.”

City officials were approached to provide the necessary funding and agreed to do so, Niski said.

The improvements cost about $1.5 million and include new artificial turf, rubberized track, overhead LED lights, fencing and drainage.

Aldermanic President John Anglace said it was time to make the improvements.

“It was necessary because the old field was getting to the point where people could get hurt,” Anglace said.

The stadium is a “multi-use city facility that everyone can be proud of,” Anglace said.

Gary DeFilippo, who oversaw the project for the city, is proud of the upgraded facility.

“It looks beautiful,” DeFilippo said. “Kids already are playing on it. Everyone is happy.”

Anglace said DeFilippo made sure the project was done correctly, noting drainage issues weren’t adequately handled when the original artificial turf was put in 15 years ago.

The stadium was built in the mid-1970s when the new high school opened. The original field had natural grass and artificial turf put in later.

“We had one of the first artificial turf fields in Connecticut,” Niski said.

The field was used less frequently back then, he said, and having grass meant there was a need to water, fertilize, mow, trim and do other maintenance.

An artificial surface field can be used much more often for gym classes, after-school team practices, almost daily athletic games, school band activities, and other events such as graduation.

The stadium isn’t just used by the Gaels football team. It’s also utilized by the SHS lacrosse, soccer, track and field, cross country and field hockey teams, with some sports having freshman, junior varsity and freshman squads.

“Our programs have grown,” Niski said.

He said the new artificial turf is made of “state-of-the-art material,” including a one-inch shock pad of soft rubber that should help prevent injuries and aid drainage.

Subsurface work was done under the playing field, drainage enhancements were made, new fencing put up around the perimeter, and computer-controlled and energy-efficient lights installed.

The project fell a bit behind schedule due to excessive rain in recent months and some adjustments made along the way, including the decision to add new lighting.

Edward C. Finn Stadium is named after a legendary SHS football coach and seats about 4,500 people in two sets of stands.

“It’s literally a shining gem and crown of our city,” Niski said. “It’s a beautiful showcase for anyone who comes to a Shelton High School athletic event, band event or graduation.”

A group of local builders now are donating their time and materials to construct a new ticket booth near the stadium’s entrance, Niski said, and it’s hoped in the future the concessions and restrooms can be upgraded.