‘Home of the Gaels’ closer to completion

Home games without a home field can be a challenge. Throw in scorching temperatures and late summer storms and you have even more of an early season headache.

Just ask Shelton Athletic Director John Niski, who, despite some extra work lately, is as enthusiastic as ever about the pending completion of Shelton High School’s Finn Stadium.

“We are so fortunate to have this project happening right now,” Niski said. “It’s going to be a showpiece for the district and the city.

“The timing is a bit off, but it’s a construction project — it happens,” he said.

Friday, Sept. 28 is the first home football game scheduled at Finn Stadium, when the Gaels play Guilford. Last Friday, the football team played its first “home” game in Middletown. Niski said coaches and other schools in the conference have been understanding and helpful with changing schedules and game locations to accommodate the project.  

The renovation started in May and weather delays and new additions to the project, including drainage, set it back a couple of weeks, according to Project Manager Gary DeFilippo. The renovation — paid for the City of Shelton — has cost roughly $1.3 million, not including about $400,000 added for the new LED field lights. DeFilippo said it became apparent about halfway through the project that new lights were needed and Mayor Mark Lauretti and the Board of Alderman agreed.

“The hard work is all done for the most part,” DeFilippo said. “It’s kind of like when you paint your house, there’s all the prep work you don’t see. The rest of it comes together quickly.”

The turf is being installed this week and the lines and dimensions for other sports — including soccer, lacrosse and field hockey — will be sewn into the turf soon after. DeFilippo said the turf will likely take another seven to eight days, weather permitting.

Niski notes the Sept. 28 football game may be a “soft opening,” as work on the new track could still be underway. Once fans see the track, they’ll appreciate the work, he said. 

“Most high school tracks are black with white lines or red but we’re going to have Shelton Gael orange,” Niski said. “It will just pop off the whole field and the big ‘S’ logo in the center.”

The new LED field lights and black fencing will also be eye-catching, Niski said.

“It will really look like the home of the Gaels,” Niski said.

Niski lauded DeFilippo and both city and outside contractors for working together.

“Gary has been there every step of the way and has been getting every penny’s worth out of this project,” he said.

The quality of the new field and track, the lights and added drainage will improve safety for all athletes who use the facility, according to Niski.

“It’s a big misnomer in the community that this is the football field,” Niski said, noting the number of sports and physical education classes that use the stadium. “This is an investment that’s going to be used as much as possible.”

DeFilippo agrees.

“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility,” he said. “It’s a great addition to the city.”

Niski said the field will be another source of pride for fans.

“There is a real pride in Shelton and our student-athletes are a big source of that,” Niski said.