Nuts & Bolts: Athletic Department upgrades

The capital improvement project includes improvements to the high school’s athletics facility. The project includes a new multi-use artificial turf athletic field with an 8-lane track and lighting (to replace existing track and football field). Additionally, 1,500-seat bleachers will be constructed over a new field house that provides space for a concession stand, team locker rooms, training room, storage rooms and bathrooms.

The current grass fields are heavily used by the varsity, junior varsity and modified athletic teams for both practice and competition, as well as by a number of growing community youth programs. The athletics program is also growing, with the recent addition of boys and girls varsity lacrosse teams. The baseball and softball outfields intersect with the soccer field, furthering overuse and inferior conditions.

Currently, the football field has poor natural grass turf quality due to overuse, a pronounced crown, lacks adequate and accessible spectator seating and does not have lighting. Due to these conditions, varsity, junior varsity and modified football teams play at the C. J. Hooker Middle School field, which is also heavily used by community based youth programs. The girls’ varsity lacrosse team plays at the elementary school.

The proposed site improvements will provide adequate and accessible parking for spectators, and the grandstand will provide spectator seating for 1,500 as compared to the 335 seats provided at C. J. Hooker.

What are the benefits of an artificial turf field?

The capital improvement project includes a multi-use artificial turf athletic field with an 8-lane track and lighting that will replace the existing track and football field. The major benefits include:

  • Increased playability: Playability is one of the primary benefits of synthetic turf, with the newer generation of infill systems exhibiting improved playability over traditional synthetic varieties. Research indicates that artificial turf provides a greater number of playable hours than natural turf: in a three-season year, playability for artificial turfs range between 2,000-3,000 hours, with most research pointing toward 3,000 hours, while playability for natural grass fields range between 300-800 hours – a drastic increase in playing time.* Installation of lighting will allow for increased playable hours.

Last year, the High School expanded its course offerings for health and physical education, adding five new courses to learn about nutrition, body composition, and the importance of exercise, with the goal of building a foundation in wellness. Physical education classes have limited access to the current athletic fields, simply because the wear and tear would add to the fields’ overuse – detrimental to the interscholastic athletic program, as well as costly to the district.

The turf field will reduce the district’s dependence on the natural grass field at C. J. Hooker, which will allow time to properly rest its natural grass playing surface and increase its availability to the community. Increased playability at the new turf field combined with increased availability at the C. J. Hooker field will be a tremendous value to the district and community.

  • Easier maintenance/weatherability: The district has made strong efforts to maintain the natural grass fields’ condition; however, they are unable to withstand current levels of usage. Because of limited space, the fields are continuously used, leaving limited time for the necessary resting of the fields. This leads to compacted dirt, which creates a poor surface for competition and contributes to a higher possibility of injury, such as concussion, as opposed to a softer surface.

The fields suffer damage when used during or after rain storms because they don’t have time to rejuvenate their root systems, which is essential to maintaining grass surfaces. Natural grass fields require rest, and should not be used for more than 20-24 hours a week. Natural grass fields are also vulnerable to poor management, which can detract significantly from use time. The compacted dirt on our fields also contributes to an inferior playing surface and continual maintenance efforts. Their chronically poor conditions have led to cancelled practices, hosting “home events” at other locations, and limited availability for youth programs.