Burrell School District and its architects will soon seek bids for a new, natural grass playing surface ringed by a new track at the high school stadium.
Drainage problems have long plagued the stadium. The track replacement is estimated to cost about $757,000, while the stadium improvement with natural grass is pegged at about $400,000.
The school board recently deliberated whether to install grass or artificial turf, with school board directors seemingly split over the choice.
While natural grass was cheaper, artificial turf would allow more events and more student use.
Artificial turf was expected to cost $1.2 million to $1.3 million to install.
“It was a difficult decision to make,” school board President Tricia Shank said.
Although a majority of the directors would “really have loved to put in artificial turf,” Shank said they decided against it for practical reasons.
“It’s like when you own a home and you know your windows are aging and your furnace is going to go — and you need a new car,” she said. “Do you buy a Mercedes or a Chevy?”
The school board voted 7-2 for the grass field. Voting for grass were Shank, Genia Koziarski, Pam Key, Gretchen Beveridge, Jane Kinter, James Kunkle and Christopher Wojcik. Voting against it were Rick Kaczor and Dr. Rachel Linderman.
Kaczor, who supported artificial turf, said, “If we had a synthetic surface, everybody could use the field.”
Earlier in the month, school board members reviewed the numbers. Artificial turf was about $800,000 more expensive to install. When factoring in maintenance costs over 10 years, artificial turf still cost more, on average, by about $20,000 a year.
Board members also looked at the safety of grass versus artificial turf and found the research was inconclusive, Shank said, adding that even NFL stadiums have a mix of artificial and natural turf.
In the end, the board was most concerned about the district’s other needed capital improvements.
“We’re trying to be conservative for our taxpayers,” she said.
Future projects include repaving the parking lot at Bon Air Elementary School, roof repairs and eventual pool and boiler repairs.
The field project won’t get underway until March, according to Drake D’Angelo, Burrell’s athletic director.
The district and architects will seek bids for the project and then present the bids to the school board to review and approve, he said.