Committee forms to explore turf field proposal

By Sheri Duff

Game on. That appears to be the rally cry of a group of coaches, administrators, and interested parents who gathered together to address the upgrades necessary to provide safe and functional athletic facilities at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School. The fields have been a problem for years, and after another season of wet weather rendered them virtually unplayable for several home games and numerous practices, an ad hoc committee was formed to address the issue.

Kevin Riell, director of student activities at CVU, said the fields become an issue with sustained wet weather. “The soil conditions on most of our fields are awful. Whenever it rains the clay soil compacts and makes it nearly impossible for the water to drain. Based on the number of games that we had to reschedule or move, this was one of the worst years,” he offered.

The ad hoc committee known as the community turf field group, led by Chris Farrington, first met with members of the CVU School Board in mid-October. Last Wednesday night the group introduced a $2.6 million proposal to the Board to replace two natural fields with two synthetic turf fields, one with bleachers and lights. The proposal was based, in part, on a feasibility study of CVU athletic fields completed by Gale Associates, a sport facility planning and design firm. The cumbersome document known as the Gale Report found that the current fields fall short of meeting participation demands both in relation to the number of athletes to field ratio and in the ability to maintain and repair the current fields.

School Board and facilities committee member Jeannie Jensen quoted the current cost to fix the existing fields at around $1.2 million. Jensen made it clear that before she would consider fixing the existing fields she would need a guarantee that drainage would not be an issue this time around. “I’m not falling for that again,” Jensen said referring to field upgrades that took place in 2004.

“While hard-pressed to call a turf field a necessity, it should also not be considered a luxury to provide our coaches and students with safe and functional sports facilities,” Farrington commented during the presentation. Farrington also shared Gale Report findings that short term costs could be made up over time because turf fields and lights can “generate income from hosting more tournaments and increased income from concessions and night games.” Farrington explained that South Burlington High School (SBHS) receives $150 per hour for their field rental; $200 per hour with the lights, and estimates its field generates $25,000 per year in income. “Regardless of the weather SBHS was able to host the Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 Football State Championship Game triple-header; while Burlington High School hosted the Division 1 Girls and Boys Soccer State Championship Game double-header on their turf field,” he emphasized.

Farrington also outlined a few budgeting options, all incorporating some level of bonds and fundraising. After considerable conversation over budget concerns and indentifying the appropriate language to move forward, the Board agreed to develop a formal committee to further research and explore turf field options at CVU.

Following the meeting School Board Chair David Rath spelled out the specifics by email. An action item would be placed on another November meeting agenda for a vote to formalize the facilities committee working with community turf field group representatives in order to move forward. More specifically, Jensen of the facilities committee will work with Farrington to identify three community members, and the facilities committee will work with CVU administration to identify administrators and coaches to work with the facilities committee.  He also thanked the committee for its energy and enthusiasm, “the community turf field group is another example of why CVU is a great high school!”

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Budget for proposed project:

Two Synthetic Turf Fields, one with bleachers and lights:

Design/engineering/permitting

$100,000

Support sitework (grading/drainage/retaining walls)

$100,000

Parking/ADA compliance

$50,000

Turf field–Site prep and installation @ $850K per field

$1,700,000

Bleachers–1,000 seats @ $200 each

$200,000

Lighting (Musco budget place Site Prep Incl. Pole Bases, UG, rigging, installation)

$200,000

Total projected costs

$2,350,000

10% contingency $235,000

Total budget $2,585,000

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