Pickerington schools: Turf campaign organizers regrouping after efforts slowed by pandemic

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Violet Township Fire Chief Mike Little chairs the Pickerington Community Turf Project, which is trying to raise funds to bring synthetic turf to both of Pickerington's high school stadiums. According to its website, pickeringtonturf.com, $47,600 had been pledged as of Jan. 5 toward the goal of  $2.25 million.

Organizers behind an effort to bring synthetic-turf fields to Pickerington’s two high schools are regouping.

In launching a campaign in October 2019 to raise $2.25 million for synthetic-turf fields at Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North by fall 2021, the nonprofit Pickerington Community Turf Project always said the goal was tentative.

The group acknowledged from the start its effort would be affected by the district’s 2.9-mill bond issue that failed last month, as that package would have included funds to build a new Tiger Stadium. The current stadium sits in a floodplain, and neither project members nor district officials support installing a turf field there.

What the organization didn’t anticipate was the pandemic, which essentially wiped out fundraising events in 2020.

“All of the stuff with COVID has really kind of handcuffed us,” said Violet Township Fire Department Chief Mike Little, who chairs the organization. “We planned on having a booth at the Picktown Palooza. We couldn’t have a luncheon in March.

“The opportunities to get the word out get diminished pretty quickly when you can’t be part of big community events or have your own events.”

According to its website, pickeringtonturf.com, $47,600 had been pledged as of Jan. 5.

Little said he expects fundraising to take at least another year. 

In addition to the lost year that was 2020, Little said several residents are facing financial uncertainty from job loss or insecurity related to the pandemic, which also has an an impact on the project. 

There’s also unpredictability surrounding Pickerington Schools’ ongoing attempts to pass a bond, which also would allow the district to address projected enrollment growth by building a new junior high school and adding space to existing school buildings.

The district announced Dec. 7 it plans to bring another bond issue forward in May, which still would be designed to generate $95 million over 38 years, but it might have a slightly reduced millage.

Mark Aprile, director of student activities, said the district supports the turf-field fundraiser because it’s a way to “benefit both schools” with through private donations.

“This would allow for multiple sports (and) band to use the facilities both for practices and games,” he said. "The turf would allow for scheduling of more home events without consideration of weather or the number of events hosted.

“Turf fields would put both schools in a better position to host district, regional and even possibly state tournaments games sponsored by (the Ohio High School Athletic Association).”

On Dec. 13, the Pickerington Community Turf Project held its first organizational meeting in months, Little said, to brainstorm ways to reach potential donors in 2021.

No events or activities were set, but Little said committee members are exploring ways to hold virtual fundraisers, publicly support the district’s bond issue May 4 and raise public awareness about building and athletic facilities needs.

“We want to try to support both schools’ efforts on the playing field, and this is one way we can improve the experiences for our students," Little said. 

“We’re not abandoning anything. We still have our website out there and we still have Facebook. We’re looking at what we’ve done and what we can do to kind of get this restarted again.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate