Last updated: September 06. 2013 7:48PM - 42 Views

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Staff Writer

An Olentangy athletic booster parent group plans to raise between $1.5 to $1.7 million for synthetic turf football fields for all three high schools in the district.

The group made a presentation Wednesday at the Olentangy School Board work session. With many statewide school districts moving to turf fields, the group said it’s time to look at installing synthetic turf football fields at each of the district’s three high schools.

“We feel like we’ve behind the curve and no longer the leading edge,” said Mike Bull, one of the presenters.

Synthetic turf is manufactured and made to look like natural grass, resists heavy use during sports and requires no irrigation or trimming. It can also be used in all types of weather conditions without any damage unlike real grass.

Turf is used in several different kinds of sports, including football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, baseball and softball, but can also be used for physical education, concerts or marching band competitions, Bull said.

Before Wednesday’s work session, superintendent Wade Lucas said he is supportive of the idea, but had concerns about turf safety, which were soon quieted by Bull.

Several studies have shown that synthetic turf is safer than a grass surface and more consistent, Bull said.

“In performance, it enhances,” Bull said. “It’s consistent and always bounces the same way. It helps aid in athletic performance.”

Board member Stacy Dunbar also thought turf wasn’t as safe as grass.

“It’s interesting,” Dunbar said. “I always had the preconceived notion that turf is more dangerous. I came in thinking it was more dangerous, but it’s actually safer.”

Turf is an environmentally-friendly option, as it doesn’t require chemicals, fertilizer, weed killers, conserves water and uses recycled materials in the turf.

As for the fundraising side of the equation, the group has about 30 to 40 businesses in mind to solicit for donations in hopes of raising all the funds through them. If not, they would also ask for private donations, Bull said.

The group wants to raise all the money before beginning the project and hopes to complete that goal by the end of the year, Bull said. They have brought on Dan Eddingfield with Field Development Consultants Inc. to help with the project planning, establish potential relationships with banks and talk with businesses about funding.

If the funding goal is met, the contract could be awarded in March with the project beginning in May. All three fields could be turfed by the end of July, Bull said.

Initial cost estimates range from $1.5 million to $1.7 million, or about $500,000 for each field. This could include a set of maintenance equipment, Bull said.

The group would pay for the initial installation of the turf, which comes with an 8-year guarantee, although some turf can last from 10 to 12 years, Bull said.

Once the turf is worn out, the district would be responsible for replacing the turf, or “returfing,” which is about $150,000 to $200,000 per field. Typically, the money saved each year from maintenance on a grass field can be set aside to help replace the artificial turf, Bull said.

However, board member Scott Galloway said that he would prefer to find another way to pay for maintenance through hosting sports tournaments, band competitions or concerts on the new fields, so that the taxpayers were not funding any part of the project.

Board president Julie Wagner Feasel said that she kept a local newspaper’s article about Central Ohio schools that have been transitioning to turf fields. One district, Hamilton Township, which is often quoted as the “least wealthiest district in Central Ohio,” is one that boasts a turf field.

“They have it,” Wagner Feasel said. “I think that’s the next step for our district as well.”

The board’s feedback overall seemed positive.

“I’m excited,” Galloway said. “I talked about this with Dr. Lucas on his second or third day here. It’s wonderful for the community, kids and district.”

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