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Turf gets high marks

| Thursday, Sept. 11, 2003

Avonworth High School senior Geno Berfield played varsity football in the mud for much of last year's season.

And when it rained, which it did a lot last fall, Berfield and his teammates practiced in the school's gym, a less-than-ideal venue for honing football techniques and strategies.

This year, the players will not have to worry about being rained out. The district's Lenzner Field, its main athletic venue, is covered with artificial turf and surrounded by a weather-proof, rubberized track.

"It was muddy all the time last year," said Berfield. "This field is a lot better than what we had."

The field, which has only been open two weeks, also is well used, said Jim Wehner, Avonworth's football coach.

"It is used for soccer games in late afternoon and physical education classes all morning long," he said. "It is money well spent."

The district's new athletic director, Amy Williams, also is enthusiastic about the reconfigured field and track.

"It's a great resource and allows games teams here to be scheduled and practice more efficiently," Williams said.

Williams last worked in the North Hills School District, where there is a similar track.

The $989,000 that the artificial turf and track projects required took up a significant part of the district's $1.2 million capital project fund.

The board approved the expenditure by a 7-2 vote in May, amid some controversy. Board members and some district residents argued that the project was extravagant for a small school district, and nearly 400 residents signed petitions against the project.

The district's administration, several school board members and a number of booster groups endorsed the work.

At least some of the project's initial critics are not averse to using the facility.

On Monday, Peter Domencic, a high school teacher, cross country coach and school board candidate, was using the field when his athletes were practicing.

"It's nice but excessive," Domencic said. "We spent $1 million when we have teachers schedules being stretched beyond capacity."

Now that the field is in use, there are several unforeseen problems, including people taking pets onto the field and the use of bicycles and rollerblades on the all-weather track, district business manager Brad Waters said. School officials are trying to figure out how to keep people from misusing the facilities.

"Everybody needs to take care of the asset," said school board member Betsy Radcliffe.

The complex has 24-hour security cameras, Waters said.

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