By Kellie Stoll
Fundraising is well underway for the proposed installation of artificial turf fields at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School. To date, the Turf Fields Committee has received a combination of donations and pledges totaling almost $190,000. The total cost for installation of two artificial turf fields, with bleachers and lights on one field, is estimated at $2.6 million. Many in the community are not familiar with problems regarding the existing grass fields and have questions regarding the artificial turf – from its components to its proposed costs and benefits.
The current grass fields need substantial repair due to poor drainage in the clay soil which leaves the fields virtually unusable after a mere “average” amount of rainfall. This is well-established fact, supported by the Gale Report commissioned by the School Board in 2011. This report also concludes that with the current five playing fields, the school is two to three fields short. The cost to repair each grass field is estimated at $300,000. Repairing the current fields would mean taking each field offline for at least one year – leaving the school even more shorthanded. Currently, the School Board has zero dollars budgeted for these repairs.
So why is installation of artificial turf the best solution? There are many reasons – the biggest of which is that it’s simply an investment in the future of our children. In keeping with the CVU mission to promote the Pursuit of Excellence, the goal of the Turf Fields Committee is to provide facilities that encourage and enable all CVU students to realize their athletic potential. These facilities should be safe, sustainable, accessible, and a source of school pride. The condition of the current fields puts severe limitations on which groups can use them and how often. Turf fields will open up CVU’s “outdoor classroom,” allowing more time outside, more physical movement, and equitable playing time for all teams and clubs.
The project is also a responsible environmental choice. There is fairly complex engineering behind – and beneath – the construction of a turf field. Just below the artificial grass fiber is a layer of granular fill made from recycled tires, meant to resemble natural turf. It is estimated that 1.5 million tires are not in landfills today because of the 6,000 plus artificial turf fields installed in the U.S. Artificial turf also eliminates emissions related to mowing and eliminates related pollution runoff from fertilizer and/or pesticides used on a grass field. It should also be noted that at the end of its useful life – 10-15 plus years – the artificial turf materials are fully recyclable.
Finally, the installation of artificial turf represents the most economically sound solution. As noted above, it will cost $1.5 million to repair the current grass fields and best case would take five to seven years as they are taken off line one at a time for repair. Due to the clay soil and terraced layout of the fields, it cannot be guaranteed that repair or maintenance will provide a permanent fix. While artificial turf requires some ongoing maintenance, the cost is minimal compared to what is needed for the grass fields. Dependable field conditions would also provide a unique income-producing opportunity for CVU. Other area schools with artificial turf estimate, conservatively, that they receive over $25,000 per year in fee income as a result of renting out the field to camps, hosting championship tournaments, and so on. This not only enables the fields to be self-sustaining, but also benefits area businesses.
It is worth repeating that there are currently no budgeted funds to address this issue. The volunteer Turf Committee has come up with a solution that will meet the needs of the entire community. If you would like to learn more or contribute, visit www.cvuhs.org/cvu-turf-project.html. The Turf Committee also welcomes questions and comments at email@example.com.
By Kellie Stoll