Thursday, September 06, 2007

More on the Artificial Turf Poll

Not sure how maintenance costs truly stack up between natural grass and artificial turf or if there is a point at which one can truly find a better return on investment that would justify artificial turf or not.  It could be years before anyone knows who is closer on maintenance estimates, etc.  Of course, the first hurdle would come down to the initial cost.

Some info from the news on the artificial turf at our rivals just to the north (Rock Bridge and Hickman).

Changes on the horizon

By JOE WALLJASPER Tribune sports editor
Published Sunday, August 5, 2007

Q: You’ve had artificial turf for a year at Rock Bridge and Hickman. How has that worked out?

A: We made the right decision on the turf. I got a chance to talk to both of my ADs. Well, (Rock Bridge’s) Steve Levingston is gone now, but Doug Mirts’ records indicated we used it over 1,200 hours, compared to last year, when we had natural grass, to 101 hours. Steve gave me some numbers, I’m not sure how accurate, but approximately 960 hours at Rock Bridge were in use, and the year before on the natural grass we used it 95 or 96 hours. That many participants, that many more class periods out there, yeah, it’s a great success. There’s some community use for it. People are inquiring about renting it. … When you’re land-locked, especially the way they are at Hickman, you can use it for practice and games without worrying about wear and tear. I think it was a great success.

Q: Where do you stand on paying it off?

A: Hickman (owes) under $100,000, and they’re still accepting donations. Right now, (Mirts) is getting a plan of action to aggressively go after some fund-raising opportunities that Hickman has. Rock Bridge’s field is completely paid for.


From Stretched to the limit
City high schools call for updated athletic facilities.

By RUS BAER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Wednesday, January 17, 2007

With Hickman and Rock Bridge coming off a year of prolonged public fundraising to pay for the artificial turf installed on both schools’ football fields at a cost of $1.4 million, Whitesides realizes it isn’t an ideal time to be jumping into another expensive project.

From Hickman Boosters Still Owe Plenty for Turf

By Janese Heavin, Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo. 
Monday, 4 December 2006

The Hickman High School Booster Club still needs about $185,000 to repay the district for the artificial turf installed on the football field at the beginning of the school year.

The booster clubs at both Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools each committed $250,000 to the $1.4 million turf project. The school board in March gave the district the green light to front the money until the clubs could raise enough funds to repay their commitments.

Rock Bridge has done so, but Hickman is still "spinning its wheels" on getting the money, Athletic Director Bruce Whitesides said. "It's just tough with fundraising. The mindset at Hickman is different than it is at Rock Bridge."

Whitesides anticipates as much as $95,000 in previously pledged donations to trickle in by the end of the month, which would let donors take advantage of tax benefits.

Hickman Assistant Principal Doug Mirts said the boosters are in the process of calling alumni to raise the additional funds. "We're going to keep at it and see if there are folks out there who can help us out," Mirts said.

But raising money for the project now, after the turf is already installed, might be tough, school board member Darin Preis said.

"That was my exact fear when we passed that," he said. "We've made the commitment. The turf is down, and we've paid for it."

Preis said he's not against the turf, although he did not consider it a budget priority.

Student use of the football fields has quadrupled since the artificial turf was installed, Whitesides said. At Hickman, students spent 185 hours on the field in August, surpassing the 130 hours the field was used all of last school year, he said.

"It's been fantastic," Whitesides said. The turf was "the right thing" to do, "especially with those land-locked areas."

"Everyone's very happy with it," Preis agreed. "I have no complaints about the turf. But this will be in the back of my mind the next time an issue like this comes up."

If school groups want to partner with the district on a project, "at least we need to have the money in hand," Preis said. "Or let's get a written commitment that it's going to happen not that I don't believe it's going to, but technically, we have no authority here. We paid for it, and it's a done deal."


Artificial Turf Has Hidden Costs, MU Researcher Warns

By Megan Means, Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo.
Thursday, 8 December 2005, 18:00 CST

A growing number of Missouri school districts are investing in synthetic fields because artificial turf can support more activities, but a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher warns that maintenance costs could be higher than expected.

Brad Fresenburg, state extension specialist for turf grass, said maintenance could cost much more than the $5,000 that artificial turf manufacturers tell schools to budget annually. He said costs could range anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 a year, depending on what needs to be done and how the field is used.

Total annual costs can top $50,000, Fresenburg said, including the cost of replacing a worn-out surface every eight to 10 years.

"We just want people to be aware so that they're not being pulled into something, thinking they're going to have a low-maintenance or no-maintenance type of field," he said. Fresenburg earlier this year authored a study on potential safety risks posed by artificial surfaces, such as high surface heat and potential for sprains and other injuries.

Columbia Public Schools administrators would like to see artificial turf on the playing fields of Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools next fall. School officials say artificial turf is the best way to accommodate student activities because there's no room to build more fields. They estimate that the synthetic surface would allow 300 events per year instead of the current 34.

The school district has offered each school $250,000, based on the amount it would have spent maintaining the old grass fields for 10 years, plus additional money for drainage improvements. School fundraisers would supply matching funds for the project. Total project cost for each field is estimated at $525,000 to $650,000.

Fresenburg said maintenance costs for artificial turf are usually lower than for natural turf, but some years are pricey. Today's artificial fields are made of plastic fibers that stand upright like blades of grass, surrounded by a layer of crumbled rubber that needs to be occasionally refilled. Some years might require surface repairs, and the entire surface must be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Using industry cost data and other research, Fresenburg estimated long-term costs based on an eight-year replacement schedule for artificial turf. He calculated a cost of $48,684 for eight years of maintenance, plus $360,000 for resurfacing. The cost of maintenance and two surface replacements total $895,000 after 16 years.

Deputy Superintendent Jacque Cowherd questioned those figures. He expects maintenance to cost much less than $5,000 most years. The district hopes to get 12 years out of the new surface, and Cowherd expects resurfacing to cost about $250,000, which will be built into the district's capital budget.

"Lindenwood has had a piece of turf down that's been down for 15 years," Cowherd said, referring to the St. Charles university. "It's still in good shape and usable. We're optimistic that we can take care of it."

Most Missouri schools have not had artificial turf long enough to incur such costs. The Springfield school district installed artificial turf five years ago at John F. Kennedy Stadium and recently added a second in a partnership with Drury University. Athletic Director Mark Fisher said basic maintenance, such as weekly sweeping, has low labor costs, but the district will spend $20,000 this summer to replenish the in-fill material.

Fresenburg worries about the growing number of school districts joining the artificial turf trend. He believes more schools should look at alternatives such as sand-cap fields, which place natural grass over 6 inches of sand. They dry faster and sustain less damage in bad weather.

The sand-cap systems cost about $25,000 per year to maintain, but installation is cheaper than artificial turf. It offers a benefit for districts that can't afford the hefty up-front price of synthetics, Fresenburg said.

The trade-off, however, is still in the number of events possible. His figures for turf grass costs are based on 40 events each year, compared to 100 on synthetic fields.

In eight-year projections, Fresenburg found that a typical grass field costs $838 per event. A new sand-cap field would cost $1,776 per event, including $25,000 in annual maintenance and $300,000 for installation. A synthetic system would cost $1,250 per event in maintenance and $600,000 to install.

In the 16-year comparison, cost differences disappear on a per-event basis. The natural field and the $600,000 synthetic field both cost $930 per event. The sand-cap field costs about $1,300 per event, not including the money saved by not choosing the pricier synthetic field.

Fresenburg did not itemize the amount of money devoted to specific maintenance requirements for synthetic turf. Potential expenses included grooming, disinfecting the surface, spraying fabric softener to prevent static electricity, maintaining drainage, upkeep on natural grass borders around the field and cleaning up anything from spilled bodily fluids to goose droppings.

He anticipates extra costs. Manufacturers have not defined the "normal wear" covered in their warranties, so schools risk early-replacement costs. He's heard of districts that buy extra insurance against that possibility.

From Renowned ground

September 25, 2005

Four years ago, three athletic directors began exploring the possibility of fitting the football fields of Hickman and Rock Bridge with artificial turf.

Two weeks ago, the collective dream of district AD Bruce Whitesides, Hickman AD Doug Mirts and former Rock Bridge AD Vicki Reimler took a step closer to reality when the school board gave Hickman and Rock Bridge the go-ahead to seek bids from turf companies.

With or without a resurfaced track, an option Whitesides said was being considered at Hickman, the cost of each field is estimated to fall between $525,000 and $625,000.

The district has agreed to pay about $250,000 per field, the estimated cost of maintaining one grass field for 10 years, and has also allocated about $100,000 to install new drainage systems at both fields.

Each school is responsible for privately funding the remaining cost.

A committee will convene Thursday to discuss funding options for Hickman. Until then, Mirts knows only that unprecedented fundraising goals will likely require the school to tap new fundraising methods, such as seeking donations from local businesses.

Although the final decision rests with the board, Jacque Cowherd, the district’s Deputy Superintendent, said that both schools should assume that no private funding can be deferred, that all donations must be collected before turf installation can begin.

Mirts said raising the money makes him a little nervous, “but I think our community is more than willing and ready to support that kind of surface here for a variety of reasons.

Mirts said a synthetic surface would support additional games and practices. With the football field reserved for football games, Hickman athletic teams currently share two-and-a-half all-purpose practice fields.

Mirts said the new field would function as an additional practice field for “pretty much (any sport) that uses a grass field.”

In addition, Whitesides said each school’s new field would be able to host more than 300 games and practices per year, compared to an estimated 35 now.

Both schools would also be able to reclaim their transplanted soccer teams, currently playing home games at Cosmopolitan Park.

But organized sports aren’t the only school activity that would benefit from the new fields.

“Really what we’ve done is we’ve increased our classroom space because we have our PE classes (on the fields),” said Gary Jones, Assistant Superintendent of Kansas City’s Blue Springs School District.

Blue Springs and Blue Springs South each installed artificial surfacing on their football fields this past summer. Three companies bid on the district’s package deal to resurface both fields before the district settled on the company FieldTurf. The total cost of both fields was about $1.5 million, which included the cost of installing an eight-lane track at Blue Springs South, and reinstalling Blue Springs’ irreparably worn track. Without the track installations, Jones estimates each field would have cost between $500,000 and $600,000.

Mirts said Hickman’s new field would also support more physical education classes, and allow the marching band, which currently practices on the parking lot, to practice on the field.

Farmington High School’s football field also had a turf makeover this past summer, complete with a new track, for roughly $850,000. Sportexe installed its turf for about $600,000, and DeFargo, a separate company, installed the track. Farmington’s district paid about $250,000, with most of the remaining cost covered by donations from local businesses that will be deferred over the next 10 years.

Farmington Athletic Director Pat Burns said the school was able to host a seventh-grade football game earlier this season, even after two inches of rain had fallen earlier in the week.


From AstroTurf News High School Synthetic Turf Projects Find Support At Rock Bridge and Hickman

Courtesy of Columbia Daily Tribune
Written by Megan Means
September 18, 2005

Supporters of Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools predict they'll be ready by next summer to write a check for artificial turf.

Columbia Public Schools has offered to pay half the cost of resurfacing the athletic fields - estimated at more than $500,000 per school - if community donors come up with the rest. The investment is expected to increase field use to more than 300 activities per year, compared to about 30 now.

The Columbia Board of Education voted last week to allow school district officials to seek bids so that schools know exactly how much money they'll need to raise. The district expects to have its $600,000 contribution available in June.

The Bruins Booster Club, an umbrella group for all fundraising at Rock Bridge, has about $175,000 already, said club President Rodney Gray. The club hopes to secure the final dollars at its annual For the Love of the Game dinner and auction scheduled for Nov. 5.

Gray said Rock Bridge boosters collected the bulk of their savings from dinner-auctions in the past two years. He said the artificial turf project is unique because it helps multiple teams and activities.

"There's no doubt that the new field will have a tremendous benefit to the physical education program and the band program," Gray said.

The Hickman fundraising isn't as far along, so Hickman boosters plan to create a special committee dedicated to the turf project. "I have confidence the community will come through," Hickman Principal Mike Jeffers said Friday night as he watched a Kewpies football game.

Jeffers supports the change because there's not enough space around the building to add fields for sports such as soccer. He points to additional benefits, such as creating a safer outdoor space for special-needs students in physical education classes.

Hickman Booster Club Secretary Susie Adams, who was busy selling school apparel at the game Friday, said the club will support the turf fund but hasn't finalized the amount of its donation, which is likely to be less than $10,000.

Adams joked that she'd rather see the school district put air conditioning in Jefferson Junior High School, where she works, but she has no doubt that the fundraising will be successful. "I'm sure it'll be there by soccer season," she said.

Some fans at the Kewpies game said they still need time to digest the plans. Former Hickman football player Dean Benthall said he would rather play on a grass field, but he can see the appeal of a synthetic surface, "if it's good turf, not something that's going to hurt kids."

Benthall's daughter, a member of the Kewpies marching band, would benefit. The group now practices on the school parking lot before school. Sturdy, all-weather turf would let them practice on the field later in the day.

Even though he likes the old-fashioned field, Benthall believes the artificial turf will become a reality. Kewpies' pride and tradition won't stand idly by while their cross-town rival upgrades. "I don't think that would happen in Columbia," he said.

Fans at a Bruins football game Friday heard requests over the loudspeaker to help pay for a new field.

Bruins parent Leigh Leyshock, a counselor at Hickman, said she supports artificial turf because it's safer. In rainy weather, it's common for band members to slip and fall during practice. With a new field, she said, "they'll have someplace to march other than a muddy pit."

Leyshock thinks the new field is worth the cost because it would affect the quality of students' experiences. "As a parent, I think keeping kids involved in activities is key," she said.

Already, both schools' fundraising groups are looking beyond the turf and making plans for landscaping and building restrooms or pavilions to embellish the facilities.

From Rock Bridge Booster Club posting: Multipurpose Field with Artificial Turf

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposal for the artificial turf fields at HHS and RBHS at a future meeting. The RBHS Bruin Booster Club has $164,000 for the project and with a third successful “FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME” dinner and auction, the field can be started and ready for the Fall 2006 seasons.

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