The State College Area School District is partnering with the State College Borough to fix a large sinkhole underneath Memorial Field at State College High School, Director of Physical Plant for SCASD Ed Poprik said.
“Our goal is to start within the next week and a half, but the weather is a factor,” Borough Engineer Amy Kerner said. “If the weather cooperates, our goal is to start, if not the week of [Feb. 4], then the week of [Feb. 11].”
The sinkhole, which was underneath the land at the time of purchase and mentioned in the original 1914 deed, has filtered so much water since the time of purchase that it has begun to cause underground erosion, causing surface instability, Poprik said.
If underground erosion continues for an extended period of time, a large collapse is possible, but the school district has been able to detect minor surface movements far enough in advance to prevent any major erosion, Poprik said.
“[The borough] entered a memorandum of understanding with the [State College] School District that we’d be responsible for the depression in Memorial Field and the repairs to stabilize the structure,” Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said.
Fountaine said the borough made this agreement because Memorial Field is important to both the school district and downtown, and these repairs are due to a strong interest to ensure the continued usage of Memorial Field.
Kerner said that the sinkhole is “very vast,” and that the school district has had the sinkhole analyzed by radar, although its exact size is currently unknown.
“Borough crews will start excavating to where they think the throat is,” Kerner said. “It’s sort of guessing game. We’ll have to investigate while we excavate.”
Kerner said that these crews will use rock to stabilize the ground around and above the sinkhole’s throat, a part of the internal structure that acts as an underground funnel. This process will still allow water to flow underground, meaning the sinkhole will continue to function as a natural filter, Kerner said.
Poprik said that after the sinkhole project is finished, the school district has two additional Memorial Field projects planned in the spring and summer -to replace the turf surface and bleachers along Fraiser Street.
The field should be finished and fully functional in time for fall athletics, he said.