By Mal Boright
August 15th, 2013
The Champlain Valley Union High School Board is considering a public vote seeking a bond issue of up to $1.5 million for rehabilitation of the school’s troubled athletic fields after an Aug. 8 meeting with members of the fundraising committee for turf fields.
After hearing a 50-minute presentation by committee members, the board unanimously passed a resolution to “commit to the athletic fields rehabilitation by building one or two synthetic turf fields and funding the rehabilitation by a bond issue of up to $1.5 million augmented by community fundraising and grants.”
In a Monday evening phone conversation, David Rath, board chairman, said a bond vote could be set for November.
Should additional committee fundraising and the bond vote be successful, the new turf fields plus bleachers and night lighting would be in place for the fall 2014 athletic season.
“If this works out it is a lovely solution,” Rath said. He added that he could not say enough good things about the fundraising committee. “(It) is solving a facilities issue we just have to face.”
During a presentation to the board Thursday, committee members Charles Shelley and Fred Palmer said donations have reached more than $190,000, but that many potential donors were waiting for a commitment by the school board to the turf plan.
Calling the meeting a success, committee co-chairwoman Kelly Austin said the board’s resolution, “gives us what we need to go forward.”
With project costs pegged a $2.6 million, the committee would need to raise an additional $900,000 for a total contribution of $1.1 million.
The school’s fields have a clay base which has produced sloppy conditions after lengthy fall and spring rainfalls, leading to home soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and football games having to be postponed or switched to other schools’ fields.
Practices have been postponed or conducted in school parking lots. Sub varsity teams have had it even worse with additional postponements.
Shelley told the board that these field difficulties hinder the school in fulfilling a key mission, “the pursuit of excellence,” as it relates to athletics.
One alternative to the turf would be rehabilitation of the present grass fields, which would cost $1.5 million over 10 years. One field would be taken out of play while being rehabilitated, which would add pressure to the remaining fields.
Turf fields, the board was told, come with an eight-year guarantee. Athletic Director Kevin Riell said that with proper maintenance, the turf will last up to 15 years, possibly longer.
Riell also noted in an email to the Observer that along with expanded sports timelines for practices and games by the presence of turf, the lights and bleachers would “increase the sense of community while bringing (followers) to an exciting venue to watch their CVU Redhawks in various sports.”
Head football coach Jim Provost said that for any sports team to play under the lights is “pretty cool.” Games became “a community event, a positive for everybody.”
Shelley and Palmer mentioned potential income from turf fields, pointing out that South Burlington realizes some $25,000 a year in rental fees from its recently revamped athletic facility.
Support came from Todd Kingsbury, who told the board that he is always seeking practice fields for his Far Post Soccer Club.
“Vermont is underserved with multi-purpose fields,” Kingsbury said. “We are looking to do more outdoor turf training in November and March, April and May.”
He said his organization would pay as much as $10,000 in rental fees.
Austin expressed optimism for the fundraising going forward.
“The $200,000 is not from a whole lot of people,” she said. “When people understand the real need, we’ll even have more committee members.”
There is a link to the committee on the CVU website, www.cvuhs.org.