Mt. Vernon eyes turf field project

Board fast-tracking plan, not looking to spend corporation funds

FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon School Corp. is on the fast track to install a turf football field at the high school.

District leaders announced plans during a school board meeting this week to convert their grass gridiron to turf, a project they hope to begin as early as this summer.

Superintendent Shane Robbins told board members he’s not looking at corporation funding to pay for the project; instead, he’s hoping to fund it through corporate sponsorship, and he already has several businesses and organizations lined up to give.

The school board approved moving forward with the planning process, including hiring a construction company, once he’s secured 75 percent — or $457,000 — of the estimated $609,000 needed. School officials say they need to select a company in the next few weeks in order for construction to begin this summer so the field can be installed by the time the fall sports season starts.

Mt. Vernon will be the second school corporation to make plans to convert to turf. In November, Greenfield-Central’s school board approved the construction of an about $820,000 artificial turf at the district’s high school — a project that was on the table for nearly two and a half years as officials debated funding options. Greenfield-Central leaders also hope to complete their project by the start of the school year.

Robbins said converting the football field to turf will allow the corporation to save on maintenance costs while generating income for the district by hosting various contests at the facilities.

The high school band boosters have agreed to contribute to the project and hope to eventually hold competitions on the field. Now, the high school doesn’t host marching band competitions because the use tears up the grass field, Robbins said.

“It’s a great way to get people on our campus and people’s money into our coffers,” he said.

Robbins estimates the district will save about $100,000 in maintenance costs over the next 10 years, the lifetime of the turf’s warranty.

Eventually, the turf will need to be rehabbed, Robbins said. That cost will likely be about $150,000, he told school board members.

Athletics director Brandon Ecker told board members 10 years is the typical lifespan of turf fields, but some fields go longer without needing rehabilitation if they’re properly maintained along the way, he said.

School board member Kellie Freeman said she supports the project and believes it elevates Mt. Vernon’s facilities to the next level. Board member Mike McCarty echoed those sentiments, saying a turf field would extend use of the field to other sports and extra curricular programs.

The project will go before the school board at least once more in order to hire a company to oversee construction; final cost estimates and a timeline will be available then.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.