COLUMBUS — The football field at Lakeview Junior/Senior High School will remain a natural grass surface.
The district’s board of education voted 4-2 to move forward with a plan that includes removing the current sod, rebuilding the crown and laying new sod to improve the field’s condition.
Monday night’s decision, which was opposed by board members Keith Runge and Mary Ann Schreiber, allows the building and grounds committee to develop specific criteria before the project is sent out for bids.
The board was presented with four options to upgrade the field during its November meeting, and the price tags associated with some of these proposals weighed heavily on the final vote.
Board member Jerry Jaixen said many district taxpayers told him they opposed installing artificial turf.
“Basically, they’re looking at the cost,” he said.
Figures compiled by head football coach Kurt Frenzen showed adding Sprinturf or FieldTurf would cost $446,000 and $675,000, respectively, over the first 12 years with long-term replacement costs of $200,000-plus and $325,000.
By comparison, a natural grass surface could be installed for $230,000 to $342,000, according to Frenzen, depending on whether specialists or local contractors are hired.
Board members Tim Mueller and Dan Pabian also pointed to the higher expenses as a reason artificial turf is less desirable.
Pabian said it’s hard to justify paying that much when only four varsity football games are played there each year.
The argument for artificial turf centered on reduced maintenance expenses and the possibility of holding more activities on the field.
“I just want it in good enough condition where everyone gets the privilege of playing on it,” said Runge, who told the board he heard from patrons favoring both types of surfaces.
Currently, non-varsity football games are moved to the practice field on rainy days to avoid additional wear and tear on the main field. Activities Director Jake Shadley said this practice will continue unless major changes are made.
A nicer field could also be used for other sports, physical education classes, band practice and summer camps, Shadley said.
Board member Ryan Loseke said artificial turf “would be nice,” but he questioned how much more use the field would get.
During his November presentation, Frenzen told the board usage would jump from 60 to at least 600 hours per year if artificial turf was installed, making it significantly cheaper than natural grass on a cost-per-hour basis.
Shadley agreed that figure may be inflated, “but it still will be used a ton more than we’re using it now,” he said.
The activities director also suggested holding a fund-raising campaign to soften the financial blow for artificial turf and noted that on-field advertising could serve as a revenue source.
Runge said supporters were already offering monetary contributions for the project.
The one item everyone agreed on is a need for more upkeep at the football field once the improvements are complete.
Superintendent Russ Freeman said the district should seek professional advice on how to maintain the field to protect their investment.