Olentangy Valley News

Turf fields at Liberty, Orange reality this summer

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That's two out of three for backers of artificial turf in the Olentangy Local School District.

At a meeting May 23, the school board approved a plan to replace the grass football field at Liberty High School with synthetic turf, thanks to a funding deal struck with the school's athletic booster group.

In April, the board approved a similar plan with organizers at Orange High School.

Booster groups at Olentangy High School are working to raise the necessary funds to install turf at their school, according to booster representatives.

Like the Orange field, the field at Liberty is expected to cost about $500,000, to be paid off through private donations, booster contributions and loans.

"The cost for the construction of the project is 100 percent privately funded," said Jim Chickarella, a member of the Olentangy Turf Committee.

He added: "Our financing allows that no funds or guarantees are required by the Olentangy school district.

Under the agreement, all risk falls on the boosters if the funding plan fails, Chickarella said.

Construction is expected to begin July 3 and finish by Aug. 10; the Orange field could be finished as early as mid-July.

The field is expected to last eight to 10 years before it needs to be replaced at a cost of $250,000 to $300,000.

Several residents addressed the board May 23 to repeat concerns about the cost of replacement falling to the taxpayers.

But proponents say the district will save money overall thanks to lower maintenance costs associated with the turf, because it doesn't have to be watered, fertilized, mowed or otherwise maintained as grass does.

Others repeated concerns about the safety of turf, but district Business Manager Jeff Gordon said turf produces fewer injuries than a rough or bumpy grass field.

"The info provided to us indicates that a well-maintained grass field is the best field to have in competition, but unfortunately, when you have multi-sport seasons, it's hard to keep those fields maintained," Gordon said.

Proponents also say turf is far more versatile than grass and can be used even in rainy conditions without tearing up the ground. That will open up the field to be used for team practices and a wide variety of other programming, potentially including youth sports, gym classes, concerts and pep rallies.

The turf project has been ongoing for more than two years. It was stifled last summer after the school board unanimously rejected a proposed plan to help finance the cost of the fields.

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