Dump might get new life as sports site

A long-closed landfill in Lexington may become an athletic complex for youngsters.

The idea is percolating anew after a town-sponsored study found no environmental problems at the site, opening the door to the transformation.

"It's been a long-time goal to put it back into use," Mayor Randy Halfacre said. "We're on the threshold of being able to do that."

Putting sports fields on the site near I-20 and S.C. 6 makes sense since building on it is restricted, town officials say.

Soccer groups - seeking more fields as the sport booms -are interested in turning the landfill into a spot where players can get their kicks.

Helmut Tissler, a leader of the Lexington Soccer Club, says up to seven new fields could be located there, increasing the number of local fields to 25.

Before agreeing to that plan, town leaders are asking other athletic groups if they would play there as well.

The dream of putting sports fields atop the landfill - a step other communities have taken - has been on hold for a decade.

It was shelved while state officials kept an eye on the 24-acre site as a possible source of contamination of groundwater that supplies the wells of homeowners in the Red Bank area.

That worry proved unfounded, but questions remained about other hazards at the landfill, closed in 1972.

Tests taken as part of the new study say there is mainly glass, cans and other harmless trash under a clay cap atop the landfill, officials said.

But conditions at the site - surrounded by industry and homes - will be monitored constantly as a precaution.

Developing sports fields on the site probably will be a partnership between Town Hall and sports groups, town councilman Ted Stambolitis said.

He estimated the project will cost $500,000.

An athletics complex could attract regional competitions that bring in tourism taxes to help pay for building and operating the project, he said.

The only problem expected in converting the landfill into athletics fields will be collecting trash that pops up as the site is graded to level its slope for fields, town parks director Dan Walker said.

"It's doable," he said of the work. "It's got some different challenges, but it's not impossible."