The Free State High School Firebird is in place on the school’s newly turfed football field, and work on other athletic venues continues to progress in the Lawrence school district.
“It’s been an extremely aggressive schedule,” said Tom Bracciano, the division director of operations and facility planning for the district.
Free State and Lawrence high schools are both getting artificial turf soccer, football, softball and baseball fields. Lawrence High School will also get more parking and new tennis courts. If everything — including lights, bleachers and the parking — is done by the Aug. 15 deadline, the project will have been done in less than a year.
At Free State, existing fields are being renovated with the new turf, while much of the work at LHS involves building new facilities. Free State’s soccer team can use the school’s football field until its own pitch is completed.
“I think we’re in excellent shape,” said Bracciano. “It’s going to be a real tough push to get the baseball field here at Free State done by March 1. Football fields at both schools are right on target and soccer, the tennis courts, everything else is pretty well on track.”
The potential budget cuts from the state do not affect the capital outlay fund, which is paying for the new athletic fields.
“It’s also hard to explain to people that you could have capital projects going on ... in the case now, where we’re putting turf on some fields, that they are unaffected by these cuts because it’s two pools of money,” said Superintendent Randy Weseman. “There are actually two kinds of money in our business — the capital money and the general fund money.”
Bracciano says the project is fiscally responsible because ultimately the fields will save general fund money that would normally go to maintenance and utilities that were spent on grass fields.
“We’re hoping to relieve the pressure on the general fund, so really, for us, it works out real well to have these projects come along at this time,” he said. “These are being paid for with capital outlay dollars, which we can’t use for salaries or operational costs.”
Bracciano also notes the environmentally friendly aspect of going to turf.
“It’s (the turf) got the soy-based backing on it,” he said. “The biggest thing in my mind, too, is no pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer.”
A package for lights should be presented to the board at its next meeting, Feb. 23. Bracciano says the district is also bidding out the bleachers for the fields.
At Free State, work is being done on leveling the baseball field and putting drainage in the soccer field. The softball field will not be touched until the season in over in May.
Lawrence High is getting ready to get turf on its football field and to relevel the softball field. Most of the underground retention for stormwater drainage is in place under the tennis courts at the Lawrence Virtual School site.
“We’ve had some excellent people to work with and it’s just come out beautiful,” said Bracciano.