GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central School board has approved the construction of an about $820,000 artificial turf at the district’s high school — a project that’s been on the table for nearly two and a half years as officials debated funding options.
This week, the school board unanimously voted to move forward with hiring a vendor to build the new field, with construction beginning this summer. The board agreed to pay the 25 percent down payment required to move the project forward and hopes to tap the community’s goodwill to fund the rest.
In 2014, the school corporation formed a committee to study options for upgrading the high school’s aging football field, noting the natural grass playing surface had not been renovated apart from routine maintenance since the high school was built in 1969.
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The committee agreed the best option would be to replace the grass with synthetic turf, but when bids last spring came in at approximately $1.2 million for the project, the school board declined to move forward with either of the two contractors who submitted bids and sent the committee to search for a more affordable option.
Committee members have since found two vendors able to construct the new field for about $400,000 less than the original projected costs.
Monday, the board voted unanimously to hire Ohio-based Maumee Bay Turf Center to oversee the project. The board will use about $215,000 of funding from a surprise deposit from the state to pay the upfront cost.
Now, board members hope the community will step up to donate the remaining funding needed — an estimated $600,000. But the project will move forward regardless, with school board members pledging to use district funds as needed.
School funds that could pay for the project include the rainy day, capital project or general funds. The district could also tap money remaining from the 2010 high school renovation project.
Superintendent Harold Olin said school administrators and the committee will form a formal fundraising plan in the next six to eight weeks that will include asking for corporate and family donations.
Olin is hopeful community members will open their checkbooks to help pay for the project that will benefit generations to come.
“This isn’t hypothetical. We’re doing it,” Olin said. “We now have a product we can sell to the community.”
The project is an investment in many students at the high school — not just the football team, he said.
Band students, physical education classes and soccer teams will also use the new field once it’s completed.
“You can never think of a football field as a product we only use six to eight times a year,” Olin said. “I think this is something we’ll all be very proud of when all is said and done.”
School board members echoed Olin’s remarks, with Kathy Dowling saying she believes the community will rally behind the project.
School Board president Retta Livengood said she initially had concerns about how much a turf field would cost the school and how often it would be used. Since then, she’s had a change of heart, she said, voting in favor of moving forward with the project.
It will benefit a wide range of students, she said, and upgrades are necessary.
“(We haven’t been) very good stewards of that field over the years,” she said.
Tentatively, Maumee Bay will break ground on the project in June, with plans to complete the new field by Aug. 1, in time for next year’s football season.
For more on the project and reaction, see B1 for sports coverage.