The Lindbergh Board of Education recently voted to grant permission to a volunteer group to solicit donations to fund synthetic-turf surfaces for the lighted field and track field at Lindbergh High School.
Board members agreed to allow the Lindbergh Partners, an arm of the Lindbergh School District Foundation, “to raise an amount equal to the difference between what the district is prepared to spend to refurbish the fields using a sand-based system and the cost to install artificial turf.”
District officials first began discussing improving the two athletic fields more than a year ago. The last major renovation of the high school’s fields occurred as part of $25 million bond issue approved in April 1995.
During a work session in April 2008, improvement options were presented to the board for future consideration that included insulating the two fields with six inches of sand and replacing the fields’ grass with synthetic turf. As proposed then, district reserves would fund the one-time expenditure for the sand-based system, but Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane said the synthetic-turf option would require a fund-raising campaign by district volunteers.
“You look at the option for the artificial turf and you say well, that’s probably more than we’re willing to recommend at this time,” Lanane said at the April 26, 2008, work session. “But if an outside group wants to make up the difference between probably that six-inch sand option and what it would cost to put the turf on and they step up and do a capital campaign, then we’re certainly willing to entertain that idea.”
Kevin Krueger of the Lindbergh Partners presented his group’s proposal to the board at a May 19 budget workshop. He told the board that members of the group, including parents, alumni, coaches and teachers, “understand that our financial commitment must be firm and clear; promissory notes, pledges promises of future considerations, etc., will not be acceptable. The final financial commitment will take the form of a cashier’s check or letter of credit from an accredited financial institution.”
After Krueger’s presentation, board Treasurer Mark Rudoff asked, “… How much are you prepared to secure in donations?”
Krueger replied, “We are prepared to secure whatever the difference is between what the board has and, of course, Mark, that will be dependent upon the final estimates we get for the project.”
Rudoff then asked for a range of what this type of project could cost.
“… Yesterday, we saw a proposal out in St. Charles for two athletic fields. They are talking about $1,020,000. Some other proposals we have seen have ranged as high as $1.5 million to $1.6 million,” Krueger said.
Board of Education President Ken Fey asked, “And that’s for two?”
Krueger said, “That’s for two fields … Of course, we’ll have to see how the fund-raising goes if we get to the point of the second field.”
In response to a question from Rudoff, Executive Director of Planning and Development Karl Guyer said, “… We met this morning and discussed with the organization what the overall time frame is, emphasizing we already have met with the high-school coaching staff and have virtually solidified the shape and configuration of the track proper as well as some of the key components supporting track and field events. So we have the design developed.
“We will start refining that and I’ve started working towards establishing a meeting with two different consultants, which will help identify the type of turf system and the type of grass system as the two alternates, which would be bid. And we’re looking to bid all of that work as well as the track in late December, early January.
“… We will award such that probably next May we can actually start construction, which will mean tearing out the existing track so that we can get prepared to put in a new track and whichever field direction is deemed as part of the process,” he said.
Rudoff said, “So it’s clear to all parties involved that the renovation of the track and the field is going to be done simultaneously … I just want to be sure that everyone understands that and that’s clear for our constituents to understand that we’re not going to be doing the track and then coming back and working on the field later.”
He continued, “This is a comprehensive, integrated plan for both projects …”
Krueger interjected, “To be done in conjunction with each other.”
Lanane later said, “… What we’re talking about here tonight is the district has — and we’ve talked about this a great deal over the last year — the need that in the very near future we need to do a major remodeling, renovation of our fields. They’re just at that point … We did those in 1995 and now it’s time to come back in and bring them up to a certain level of playability and safety — both those things — and drainage is a real concern with our current situation. So it was never a matter of if. It was always a matter of when and the when has kind of gotten here.
“So we’re committed to a base project that would bring those fields up to and probably exceed what were the ’95 standards because there’s newer standards now that have gone above that. And particularly in terms of drainage, this will be a better model out there. So what we’re talking about then is only the differential. The district will not be putting tax dollars into artificial turf. This will be this great group of volunteers — parents working on their own to bring in that additional revenue. So it’s really a gift in that sense to the district. I think it’s very important that everyone understands that …,” he added.
Lanane also discussed the benefits of synthetic turf, including improved safety for students, reduced maintenance costs and better utilization of space.
“… In terms of the best bang for the buck, artificial turf is absolutely the way to go,” he said. “The grass field is wonderful out there, but you have to constantly protect that field. You protect it for the next game so that it’s in that good-playing, safe condition for the next game, and in many cases, your playing field then you’re not able to really use on a frequent basis for practice.
“Artificial turf, it’s there 365 days a year, 24/7, just waiting for kids to get on it and use it … It’s a huge increase (in usage) for a significant increase of money, but not an outrageous increase of money. The bang for the buck is there, and it’s that usability of having it available factor that really, it’s just you can’t compare. So I’m excited that a group has taken this on. I hope they’re extremely successful in this because I think the benefit will be to the students and athletes in this school district.”
Fey asked, “… I know that all of you are here because you’re very passionate about this topic and you believe in this topic. So obviously the economic environment that we are in today has not scared you all off and you still believe this is not too big of a hurdle to achieve?”
Krueger replied, “It hasn’t. The economic environment of today convinced us that we were going to have to raise funds separately. It wasn’t something that this district could afford to do on its own, and we’ve done some preliminary investigations, and we think the capabilities are there. And our consultants also tell us that it is.”
After the board voted to authorize the Lindbergh Partners to seek donations to fund synthetic turf, Fey said, “Gentlemen, that motion carries 7-0. We hope that you do it, and I know you will.”