Plan for new turf on track

Proposed synthetic grass for high schools awaits a committee.
Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:36 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

If synthetic turf is installed at the Hickman and Rock Bridge high school stadiums, each field could withstand more than 300 events each year.

Those stadiums each host 30 to 35 events now.

“This will give us an opportunity to charge admission and have a home venue for” soccer “instead of going out to Cosmo,” said Bruce Whitesides, athletic director and the director of physical education for Columbia Public Schools.

The additional events include football practice, physical education, community events, marching band practice and soccer games and practices.

Whitesides said the project could cost $700,000 per field but a majority of the funding would come from private donations.

Early proposals had the schools contributing $250,000 from their budgets toward the funding of their fields.

“That was based on $25,000 saved on grass maintenance per year, per stadium, over 10 years,” Whitesides said. “That includes the tangible water, fertilizer, irrigation, equipment and field markings.”

The turf would be comparable to MU’s Faurot Field, which is a long synthetic grass imitation.

“Missouri uses FieldTurf; there is ProTurf, there is Sprinturf, a number of names, but they are all comparable,” Whitesides said.

By the end of January, the school district’s long-range facilities planning committee will discuss the turf proposal and is expected to present recommendations to the school board, said Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent for administration.

The issue was first discussed at the Oct. 11 meeting of the Columbia Board of Education.

“There is a lot of interest from the athletic departments to increase their instructional space,” Cowherd said. “By covering the field with turf, you increase the ability for other programs to use that space. It’s just how we can work it through and get it funded with something reasonable that everybody’s comfortable with.”

If approved, the turf project would have to go through a public bid process, which takes 60 days. Ground work and turf installation can take between 45 and 120 days, depending on the weather.

Whitesides said the process needs to get moving.

“I feel quite positive about it, but obviously we need to get going if it’s going to happen before the upcoming school year,” he said.

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