Crews start work on district’s $4.57M turf replacement at LHS, Free State

photo by: Joanna Hlavacek

A construction sign marks off Free State High School football stadium, where the replacement of the field with turf is set to begin, Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

It may not look like much now, but big changes are afoot at Free State High School’s football stadium.

Crews have spent the last several days working to remove the field’s nearly 10-year-old turf so that new turf can be laid in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, crews had just finished stripping the worn-and-torn surface, revealing the gravel bed underneath. The football field is one of eight sports facilities across Free State and Lawrence High School to receive new artificial turf this year, a project totaling $4.57 million.

Tony Barron, the district’s executive director of facilities and operations, said the schools’ current synthetic fields have suffered extensive wear and tear since their installation in 2009. Technology at the time offered a typical turf lifespan of eight years, and, with the current fields’ warranty having expired in 2017, Barron said replacement of the torn-up turf had been a long time coming.

The new turf will also have an eight-year warranty, but, unlike in 2009, “a typical replacement cycle is 10 years” nowadays, Barron said.

“We’re hopeful with the improved technology of the turf that we could possibly get 10 to 12 (years) out of this next round of replacements,” he said.

Barron said the new turf, which includes football, soccer, baseball and softball fields at both high schools, will allow for better water drainage, lessen the burden on maintenance staff and ultimately prove more cost-effective than the old turf.

On average, the district has spent about $48,160 per year in maintenance and operating costs since installing its current turf in 2009, Barron said. With the new turf fields, Barron anticipates annual maintenance and operating costs of around $32,000.

In February, Barron estimated that it would cost $122,244 a year in labor and supplies to maintain the eight fields if they were natural grass, but did not indicate how much the initial cost of natural-grass fields would be.

“It’s also a more playable surface for our athletes,” Barron said of the artificial turf, “and it’s also a safer surface for our athletes.”

Additionally, having turf allows the district to open its sports fields for public use, Barron said. Natural-grass fields wouldn’t hold up as well under that kind of foot traffic, the district has said.

The Lawrence school board approved the project back in February. Barron said the turf replacements would be staggered so as not to conflict with playing seasons. Lawrence High’s soccer field had its turf removed soon after graduation last month, and will be followed later this summer by work on the softball, football and baseball fields.

Turf will be replaced at Free State’s soccer field later this month. Work on the school’s baseball and softball fields, scheduled for July, will also include backstop improvements.

All fields are expected to be completed by late August, Barron said.


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