Whether it’s for the new football stadium proposed for east of the high school, or installing it at Unruh Stadium, artificial turf is looking more and more like a bad idea.
In either case, artificial turf would cost $700,000 to $760,000 to install, a pretty hefty price tag considering that in the long run, an artificial turf field won’t save the school district any money.
A widely publicized study says that despite popular belief, artificial turf fields cost as much or more to maintain than natural grass fields.
Several universities, including the University of Arkansas and the Michigan State University, found in 2009 that “it is a myth that synthetic fields require less maintenance than natural turf grass fields.”
Without the need to replace artificial turf every 8 to 10 years, Michigan State University’s certified sports turf managers said in 2009 the typical annual maintenance costs of artificial turf fields there ranged from $13,720 to $39,220.
Artificial fields require additional in fill, disinfectants and sprays to reduce odors and static cling, and removal of organic matter. You can’t even eliminate irrigation from artificial fields because they need it to reduce the temperature of the field on warm, sunny days.
If you include the cost of replacing the field every 8 to 10 years, maintenance cost jumps to $65,000 to $110,000, depending on whether you have a basic or premium field, according to Brad Fresenburg, University of Missouri Extension turf grass specialist. Just to dispose of the old, worn out field costs $130,000 plus transportation and landfill charges.
“Don’t let anyone come around and say it’s for cost reasons,” Fresenburg said on the University of Missouri’s website.
A basic synthetic field costs roughly $600,000 initially and have an estimated $5,000 annual maintenance budget, Fresenburg’s study found in 2012. A premium artificial turf installation was estimated to cost $1 million, plus $20,000 annually for maintenance.
In contrast, natural grass, soil-based field like the ones we have now cost about $33,522 annually; although it can be maintained on a budget of $25,000; Fresenburg said. These amounts are pretty close to what Superintendent Mike Folks has said our grass fields cost to maintain.
“Schools say ‘we don’t have the money to maintain natural fields but then turn around and spend $600,000 to install a synthetic field,’” Fresenburg said. “Everyone is going to this because they want to keep up with the Joneses.”
We don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. Our fields are beautiful the way they are, and apparently, no more costly than artificial turf.
Vote no on Question B asking for a $2 million bond for a new football field that includes artificial turf. The question, proposed by USD-379, will be on November’s general election ballot.
-- Ryan D. Wilson