TIME FOR TURF
District 218 schools need to upgrade fields — now
When itwas announced in May that District 218 high schools Eisenhower, Richards and Shepardwere ranked byU.S. News& World Report among the state’s top 100 high schools, I couldn’t be prouder as an alum.
For the record, Shepardwas ranked 54th, Richards 66th and Eisenhower 68th.
As an Eisenhower grad, I know firsthand the district offers families a diverse learning community while being engaged, challenged and supported in the classroom.
A bigger challenge, however, is walking on the three schools’ football fieldswithout twisting an ankle or suffering amore serious injury.
Each facility is becoming an eyesore to the campus which, otherwise, has spectacular curb appeal. It’s getting to the point where if Iwas the family of legendary coach GaryKorhonen, I’d consider removing his name from Richards’ field.
I’m happy to report that good news could be on the horizon.
The district announced at its October school board meeting that itwas going to study the merits of installing artificial turf at all three fields.
Iwould suggest the sevenperson board take awalk on each field. Itwon’t take very long to realize the need.
There isn’t a fertilizer on the market that can restore the lushness each deserves.
Installing field turf is a long overdue investment, one thatwas on the brink of becoming a reality 10 years ago. I sawthe drawings back then for all three facilities. Theywere magnificent.
But then the recession hit and the district put the plans on hold.
A decade later, someone finally decided itwasworth exploring again.
That personwould be school board member Robert Stokas— bless his heart.
“There are a lot of people in the community interested in having turf fields,” Stokas said.“We need to get this to the forefront to see if it’s something the public wants and needs. We need to have a serious discussion to see if this makes sense.”
More appropriately, if itmakes cents. Of course, it will require a significant amount ofmoney. Plastic surgery isn’t cheap. Bloom installed artificial turf over the summer at a cost of $1.3 million.
So multiply that by three— maybe even four if the board agrees to install turf to its administration facility in Oak Lawn. Additionally, Richards has some issues with drainage, which could double the cost.
We’re talking about an investment of approximately $6.5 million, give or take a few hundred thousand.
The localmoney needed possibly could be reduced byway of a state or federal grant.
“Of coursewe have to see if it’s somethingwe can afford,” Stokas said.
I don’t think that will be an issue. The district has $78million fund balance. The Illinois State Board of Education has awarded the district with financial recognition, the highest possible fiscal rating for 14 consecutive years. The district runs a tight ship, something as a taxpayer I appreciate.
In the case of installing artificial turf, however, a little too tight.
In recent years, funds have been allocated for a new theater, cafeterias and science labs. Now it’s time to loosen the purse strings and direct dollars to athletics. Specifically, artificial turf.
This isn’t entirely about football, folks. The soccer teams, cheerleaders, physical education classes and marching bands would all benefit.
Local youth sports teams could play on the facility, providing a wonderful showcase for the three schools.
Baseball and softball teams could practice on it when their fields are unplayable.
While the initial investment is large, the district will save a bundle on itswater bill, gas for the lawnmower, paint for lining the fields and fertilizer. In turn, that will provide additional manpower for other duties around campus.
Nearly every high school in the Southland has installed artificial turf— St. Rita has done it twice. This isn’t about keeping upwith the Joneses.
It’s about enhancing the athletic experience for studentathletes.
“The first thingwe need to get is a feasibility study for turf and bring it to the (school) board,” Stokas said. “It has to be put on the agenda. Until thenwe’re in a holding pattern.”
The next school boardmeeting isNov. 15. Something needs to be added to the agenda.
The current state of Eisenhower’s football field warrants a discussion about the need for an investment in artificial turf by District 218, which also includes Richards and Shepard.