School district committing to turf field

Costs, time commitments factor into using synthetic material over grass
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Shawano School Board members are indicating they would prefer a turf field instead of a grass field for Shawano Community High School football and soccer games, even though the turf field was identified as a sticking point in the April referendum.

The board discussed the matter in depth with representatives from Hoffman Planning and Design, the consultants working with the Shawano School District to try passing the referendum again, during a work session June 3. Replacing the grass field is expected to be pricey at first but is anticipated to cut field maintenance costs by about 90%.

“This is one of the consistent questions that came up time and time again at the last referendum — why are we doing turf? What is the rationale behind that? Aren’t there problems with it?” said Jody Andres, senior architect with Hoffman. “We just kind of want to put this conversation to bed like we did with the day care.”

Turf fields can go for 10-12 years and beyond, even with extended usage, according to John Kinnear, who works with Hoffman on its design projects. The annual maintenance costs for a turf field are estimated between $2,500 and $3,000, whereas the current grass field puts maintenance costs for the district between $25,000 and $35,000 per year, he said.

“A synthetic turf profile is really quite different” compared with a grass field, Kinnear said. “There is no topsoil. It’s all prepared subgrade, and from there, there’s a separation fabric, flat-panel underdrain tile, large stone-filled permeable trenches to catch storm water. These fields are permeable, so they allow the storm water to run right through them.”

Kinnear noted that the existing field at SCHS is looking at a potential reconstruction in three to five years, which would initially require $490,000 for the overhaul. In a 15-year period, the district would sink about $1.2 million into reconstructing and maintaining the grass field.

The turf field would require about $950,000 up front to set up, with total costs coming to about $1.4 million in that same 15-year period, according to Kinnear. School districts like Chippewa Falls and D.C. Everest in Stevens Point are using turf, he said.

An advantage for having a turf field is that the synthetic material can take more of a pounding, Kinnear said, so instead of using the field just for football and soccer games, the field could be used for physical education classes, other sports competitions and even graduation commencements if the high school wanted to move the ceremony out of the gymnasium.

“You can use it over and over again, as much as time allows with supervision, for your district,” Kinnear said, noting that most turf fields come an eight-year warranty.

Kinnear pointed out that, with a turf field, the field could be open for use a day or two after the work is completed. A grass field overhaul, by comparison, would mean the facilities could not be used for about a year as the new grass grows.

Board member Christine McKinnies did not like the idea of high school students, especially seniors, having to play all of their games away from Shawano.

“We’re talking about an entire season,” McKinnies said. “That’s not going to sit well with everybody in Shawano, thinking ‘Away games with my kid for an entire season, maybe more?’ It never occurred to me that it could be that long before you could play on it.”

The field overhaul is expected to be necessary as the district also plans to put in track facilities on the field, as well. Currently, the track used for high school meets is at Shawano Community Middle School, but with the district looking at building a new middle school a few years down the road, officials have hesitated to put in a lot of money for athletic facilities on a campus that might not be there in a few years.

“We actually have schools that cancel track meets, because they won’t run on our track,” said board member Bobbi Lemerond, who agreed that keeping the existing field grass was not an option.

Turf fields were found to be one sticking point that prompted people to stop short of voting in favor of the referendum. The other two issues were the orchestra pit for the SCHS auditorium and the proposed day care center at Hillcrest Primary School, the latter of which has been shelved.


WHAT: Shawano School Board work session

WHEN: 5 p.m. June 19

WHERE: Shawano Community High School, library, 220 County Road B, Shawano