By Steve Rensberry, Editor
Members of the Triad Board of Education listened at their June 24 meeting to a proposal from Athletic Director Kenny Deatherage about replacing the natural grass surface with artificial turf on the high school main football stadium field and on the in-field section of the varsity baseball field.
Deatherage said that since he took the position as athletic director about 5 years ago, that he has undertaken several steps to improve both the program and facilities, citing the school’s “main stadium field,” as something that has gone down over the past 20 years, in comparison to other facilities in the area he has visited.
While Triad hosts IHSA games all the time, he said, he also cited instances where they have had to move games elsewhere for various reasons. Area schools he has looked at who are currently using turf include schools in Mascoutah, Waterloo, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Belleville Freeburg, and O’Fallon. Highland was looking at it last year, he said, but it failed to pass.
During several minutes of discussion, board members raised questions about the estimated cost, financing, and other practicalities. Board Member Laura Dodds recalled a figure of about $10 million when Collinsville switched to artificial turf several years ago.
Deatherage noted that Collinsville did their entire facility, whereas the area he is proposing would include only the football field, areas behind and around the goalposts at either end, and on the infield of the varsity baseball fields, which he estimated would cost in the neighborhood of $1.3 million.
In response to questions from board members Ken Miller, Laura Dodds, and others, Deatherage estimated the cost to redo everything with natural grass would be between $200,000 and $300,000. Lower maintenance costs, higher durability, and other factors associated with artificial turf were cited as some of the benefits, as well as safety with the use of padding or a lining which can help guard against head injuries.
Deatherage also said corporate sponsorships and business donations toward the change would also help with cost. He already has $35,000 in commitments, if it were to go forward, $20,000 of which is from the Booster Club, and another $10,000 from a business owner.
“I really think it’s time for Triad High School to move in that direction,” Deatherage said. “I think it would be huge for the Triad School District.”
Board President Jeff Hewitt summed up the board’s sentiments with a request for Deatherage to produce a cost-benefit type of analysis between the two surfaces, showing a comparison of replacement costs over time, as well as more details about any safety benefits to using turf.