Currently, the fields are Bermuda grass that require an exorbitant amount of maintenance, school officials say.
“Natural turf is a great surface, but it’s extremely difficult to maintain. The drought makes it tougher to maintain. Research has told us synthetic fields can withstand four times as much as natural turf field,” said Steve Williams, an athletics coordinator for the school district.
Partly due to the amount of water needed, the hourly costs of maintaining a natural turf field is $111 dollars, compared to $61 an hour for a synthetic field, school officials said.
The school system is also struggling to accommodate its growing number of sports teams. In 1987, there were just 62 varsity and junior varsity teams in the system. That number had grown to 98 in 2007.
“Synthetic turf increases field use three times, so one stadium can become equivalent to three fields,” he said.
School officials were required to go before the county to present their plan because a loan will be taken out in the county’s name to pay for the turf until the necessary proceeds of $1.3 million are collected from the lottery.
Commissioners Kirk Kirkpatrick and Mary Ann Enloe expressed concern that the new fields would mostly benefit the football teams. Not so, school officials said — they will make sure the soccer team, the band and others get a fair share of use.
His concerns assuaged, Kirkpatrick said, “I’m a firm believer in sports and sports activities. If having these turf fields will allow for more children to use the fields ... I’m certainly for this.”
Commissioner Skeeter Curtis was also in favor of the project, but he cautioned that school officials needed to be sure they were using the lottery proceeds wisely.
“We don’t want to take capital money that could be used for education and spend it on athletics. I want to make sure we’re taking into consideration everything we should before we start on that process,” he said.
Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the plan. Chairman Larry Ammons was absent from the meeting.
— By Julia Merchant