GREENFIELD — A committee appointed by the Greenfield-Central School Corporation Board gathered Tuesday to discuss improvements to corporation athletic facilities, most notably the installation of artificial field turf at the high school football stadium.
It was the first meeting on the issue and chairman Dave Beal, the G-C high school associate principal, emphasized a cautious approach “looking at all angles.”
The committee, which also included new superintendent Harold Olin, high school principal Steve Bryant, school board member Ray Kerkhof, corporation business manager Tony Zurwell, outgoing athletic director Kevin Horrigan and incoming A.D. Jared Manning, pledged to look into the cost of a major natural grass overhaul and recrowning of the football field, which would be the first such conditioning upgrade since use of the field began in 1969.
The majority of the meeting, though, was spent on the feasibility of artificial turf.
Among two significant issues that came up in the meeting, which was the first of two planned public meetings before reporting to the school board in July:
* Horrigan said field turf prices can range from $300,000 to $1 million-plus, with the low end providing little guarantees of long-term quality and the high end exorbitant and probably unnecessary for Greenfield’s needs.
* Zurwell said if payment of the project came from school funds, it would be via the Capital Projects Fund. A cap of five percent of the CPF may be used for athletics; that amounts to approximately $145,000 annually. With some of that money already taken up in fixed athletic costs, about $100,000 annually would be available for a field turf project. Many field turf companies accept annual payment plans, according to Bryant and Horrigan.
* In-kind donations and corporate sponsorships would be sought to help offset the cost. In 2006, Noblesville’s turf field (at a total cost of $575,000) was partially paid for by $200,000 worth of in-kind donations and a $130,000 naming rights commitment from Hare Chevrolet, according to an athleticsbusiness.com report.
* Olin and Bryant stressed that the project, if eventually approved by the school board, would not be put to a remonstrance, with no public monies being used, other than what is already available in the Capital Projects Fund.
“I lived through the remonstrance we went through, and I think we’ve come a long way since then,” Olin said. “I feel like the divisiveness we had five, six years ago has gone away. And I don’t want to see that reemerge if people think we’re not using their money wisely.”
“If (the field turf) can be paid within the CPF and we can still maintain our other facilities through that line item, then that’s something we can look at.”
* Annual maintenance of a field turf surface would be far less than the current costs for mowing, sod/repairs, watering, painting and so on of the natural grass, committee members agreed.
Multiple uses of the field turf
* The G-C band is a major proponent of a turf field, according to Horrigan and Bryant. In the past, the band would host competition fundraisers featuring nearly 30 other bands and netting tens of thousands of dollars. But, as more and more schools in the area – including Noblesville, Knightstown and a host of schools in Johnson County and Indianapolis – have gone to field turf, school bands are heading to those facilities for competitions, instead of coming to G-C.
Bands prefer turf because of the better field conditions, and turf is where state and national competitions, such as those held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, take place.
* Field turf can handle much more precipitation than a natural grass field, so a football or soccer game or practice would not get postponed by weather, except by lightning. Baseball, softball and virtually all other outdoor sports could practice on the field turf, as well. Soccer games would continue to be held on the soccer field, but could be moved to the field turf under less than ideal weather conditions.
* Physical education classes would have access to the turf. Now, because of the sometimes poor or wet condition of the field, and for fear of tearing up the sod, access to the grass is limited.
* Greenfield Youth Football League representatives were at the meeting and expressed their interest in playing on field turf, if it were to come to fruition at G-C.
“We’ve got a significant investment out there in land, bleachers, and my understanding is that we used it nine times last year,” Kerkhof said of the football field. “This structure is just sitting there most of the time. I envision, if we can get this pulled off, to have that basically being scheduled for events as much as we are the gymnasiums and fieldhouse.”
“I’m not looking just for football … but what we can do for students and the community as a whole.”
The committee will have another public meeting June 24 at 7 p.m. at the administration center, 110 West North Street, in Greenfield. It hopes to provide an update to the school board July 14.
Committee members agreed that a turf field, if approved, would not be ready for the 2014-15 school year, and instead for 2015-16 at the earliest.
It can take anywhere from 30 days to several months to install field turf, depending on which company is used, Horrigan said.