The Southwest Licking school board on May 16 voted 4-0, with Cindy Zaino absent, to allow the Watkins Memorial High School Athletic Association to go forward with its artificial-turf project for the football field and practice field.
The athletics association is working to raise $600,000 total, but has already raised more than $500,000 and is ready for a June 7 groundbreaking to replace the grass with artificial turf.
The goal is to finish the project by August.
The project is a community-sponsored fundraiser and no tax money, state funds or athletics team funds will be used, according to website for the project.
According to the website, the project is necessary because the football and practice fields are in use during most of the year for track and field and football events.
Weather conditions often affect the field.
School board President Dave Engel recalled a Watkins Warriors game five or six years ago illustrating that fact.
"It rained and rained all week," he said. "They could not tell the color of the uniforms, it was so muddy. This will eliminate (the mud)."
Turf project committee member Odell Jackson said the more than $500,000 in pledges has come from businesses, families and individuals.
"We told you we were a really motivated group," Jackson said. "We have all sorts of changes planned for that field."
Committee chairman Tom Lee said the group has more money to raise to get to $600,000, but he did not anticipate any problem raising the rest. He said the committee will continue to raise money though football season.
Board member Roger Zeune asked the group if any other local schools had turf fields.
Jackson said Licking Valley has used turf for two years and Johnstown for three. He said committee members also consulted with Thomas Worthington High School, St. Charles Preparatory School and Capital University.
Zeune said turf would make the field useful to more people.
"That's what Thomas Worthington told us," Jackson said. "They were real loud and real clear."
Lee said the field should last 12 to 15 years and should cost $350,000 to $400,000 to replace. It will cost roughly $550,000 to install initially.
Lee also assured the board the track would be protected during the process.
"They're making sure they're very careful with the track," said board member Debra Moore. "They've clearly done their research."