Turf fields are nice, but take a look at what this N.J. school has to offer

By Kevin Minnick | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

NJ High School Sports

PENNSAUKEN ―It just might be the best practice facility any team in the state can claim as their own.

While a few odds and ends still have to be completed, the Rick Taylor Field House is close to completion and everyone involved with Pennsauken High School athletics is excited for its future.

Taylor Field House


“The superintendent said he heard good things about what we were doing as coaches. What did we need to be successful?” said football coach Clinton Tabb, who is also a track coach. "I just needed to be able to compete with Camden Catholic, Bishop Eustace, Paul VI. Even Camden had turf and lights.

“He said he’d get us turf and lights, and then said he’d get us a field house, too. Between the superintendent and the board of education, they got it done.”

Built where the tennis courts used to sit, the state-of-the-art facility is named after the former Pennsauken mayor and longtime educator who died in January after a lengthy illness. “We’re excited. There’s a lot of optimism,” said newly named athletic director Billy Snyder, who replaced Eric Mossop. Mossop is now the district’s Director of Technology. "We’ve been given the tools. Now we have to build it. “It’s going to have an impact on all sports at all levels.

The field house is designed by Garrison Architects of Bellmawr and includes a 50-yard turf field, drop-down batting cages, a two-lane track, two weight rooms, a cardio room and more. Existing locker rooms have also been upgraded as part of the massive project. The football stadium was upgraded last year. “It puts us in a different category,” superintendent Dr. Ronnie Tarchichi said.


Taylor Field House

“I wouldn’t think anybody in Jersey has what we have. Take a look at it and you’ll be astonished.” In his fifth year as superintendent, Tarchichi is the driving force behind the district’s resurgence.


In addition to the field house, 11 buildings have seen various improvements as part of the $50 million project. Also included is a new media center in the high school, while a park is planned to be built on the site of a former elementary school.
It all started in March 2018 when Pennsauken residents overwhelmingly passed an almost $36 million bond referendum. The district was then able to generate another $14 million.

Locker Room


Tarchichi said the district “had a bad reputation.”
“Facilities are everything. Facilities are the reason people attend certain schools,” he added. “It’s changed the district.”

Tarchichi said there were 1,700-1,800 students in the high school in the mid-90s. When he came in as superintendent, there were 1,168. That number has increased to 1,425.
Improved locker rooms are just a small part of the massive project to upgrade facilities at Pennsauken.

In addition to the project’s athletic upgrades, Tarchichi has added vocational programs to the curriculum.

“I’m not advertising this to just athletics,” he said. “It’s also about academics, developing vocational workers. Kids can now work toward 60 college credits and earn their associate’s degree.”

“As the programs are rolling out, there has been a substantial increase in enrollment,” Snyder noted. "That’s the whole goal. We want to bridge the gap between eight and ninth grade and keep the kids, give them programs. And it’s not just sports, it’s cosmetology, electrical ...“(Tarchichi) and the board gave us a roadmap to follow. Not every kid is going to college but we still have to give them a pathway. We’re doing that.”

For Tabb, it’s about keeping Pennsauken kids in the district.

“I don’t want other kids; I just want mine,” said Tabb, a Pennsauken graduate in his 12th season as the football coach and 18th as a teacher. He owns a 51-62 career record, directing the Indians to the 2011 South Jersey Group 4 title. "There was a time when they played Little League and we’d get six or seven out of 20. Now they’re coming back.

"I’m excited, just excited for the kids. To these kids, it’s like Christmas. We went outside for gym class and I had to pull the kids back. They asked if they could see the locker room and I told them they were still banging some nails.

“I want my kids to have the best and the superintendent has done that. There’s almost nothing we’ve asked for - not just athletics, but across the board - that’s been denied right now.”

 

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