By Stephanie Choate
Proponents of synthetic turf fields at Champlain Valley Union High School can start pitching in.
The CVU Board voted unanimously on Jan. 7 to allow a community group to begin fundraising for the project.
In the fall, the board tasked its facilities committee to meet with members of a community group of interested residents and the school’s administration to explore options. At its Jan. 7 meeting, CVU board and facilities committee member Jeanne Jensen presented the group’s findings to the board.
Jensen was clear that the board’s vote would not commit it to spending any money on the fields.
“All we’re doing tonight is saying that if they can come up with the money, we won’t turn it down,” she said. “…. Right now, we’re not committing the board to a dime.”
Drainage issues on the school’s fields forced many home games and practices to be moved elsewhere in the fall. A high concentration of clay stops water from draining from the fields when it rains or snows.
The committee looked into three options: rehabilitating the school’s grass fields; building one synthetic turf field and rehabilitating two grass fields; and building two synthetic fields.
Rehabilitating the grass fields is the least expensive option—costing between $1.2 and $1.5 million. The committee did not recommend it, however, because it didn’t address the school’s overuse of the fields or the growing football program. There is also no guarantee, Jensen said, that replacing the drainage system would be a permanent option.
The committee recommended synthetic turf fields, ideally two, though Jensen noted that the number of fields would likely hinge on the level of community support.
Two turf fields would cost approximately $2.5 million.
Jensen noted that turf fields are so new that it’s unclear how long they last. Local companies place the turf carpets under warranty for up to eight years.
Turf fields would also address the school’s overuse problem, since it would mean less activity on the grass fields.
Kevin Riell, director of student activities, said hosting games on muddy grass fields causes severe wear and tear. Coaches can dictate which parts of the fields get used during practice, however, sparing the wet areas.
“Two turf fields will allow the competitions to take place on synthetic fields and give a much needed rest to the other fields,” he said.
Two synthetic turf fields would also allow CVU to host revenue-boosting tournaments, Jensen noted, since it would be the only school in the area with two.
The community group will likely report to the board again in the spring.