Lawrence could have two high school football stadiums with artificial turf as early as next year under a plan for a $2.8 million project that emerged Thursday.
"This isn't just about one sport. This is really more about the total system and the total program," Superintendent Randy Weseman said.
Board members will consider options for improving high school athletic facilities without a tax increase or bond issue at their 7 p.m. Monday meeting at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
The plan could involve installing lights, artificial turf, bleachers and restrooms at the track facilities of Lawrence High and Free State, possibly in time for fall. The stadiums could be used for football, soccer, band and track, and the first phase also could include more parking at LHS.
Administrators are looking at using a financing tool called performance contracting to pay for projects like installing turf because it would save on water, mowing and fertilizing. Performance contracting rewards energy-efficient methods.
The rest of the money for the improvements would come from $2.4 million remaining from its 2005 bond issue, the district's existing capital outlay fund and other financing tools, administrators said. The state restricts school districts to using capital outlay and bond funds to improve facilities, instead of paying for salaries and other expenses.
A second phase would include adding artificial turf baseball and softball fields at both high schools and improving the tennis courts and taking care of an $11 million backlog of projects at the elementary schools.
A third phase could include working toward a district sports facility with private partnerships involved, but Weseman did not elaborate Thursday.
For football, the district has rented Haskell Stadium for $3,000 per game, which will increase to $5,000 per game next season. LHS has played home games there for decades.
"I feel strongly about supporting tradition, but I also am told by people in the community on a daily basis that you need to maximize my tax dollars, so that's how it is," Weseman said.
Haskell Athletic Director Ted Juneau said the university just finished a $20,000 project to resod and regrade the field for next season. He said the development was "not a divorce" and that the university would support what the district decides.
"We're here if they need us," he said.