A proposed five-year plan to update the football stadium at Highland High School will not include artificial turf, said District 5 Superintendent Mike Sutton.
A private group calling itself “The Highland Community Turf Committee” last May presented a plan to the school board to convert HHS’ football field to artificial turf. The $1 million project called for renovating locker rooms and weight training facility in addition to the artificial playing surface.
The plan was to pay for it all by selling advertising in the stadium, similar to what was done to fund the installation of artificial turf at both high school stadiums in Belleville District 201.
Board members bristled at the Field Turf warranty, however. It covers the surface for eight years, though replacement would be likely necessary in 10 to 12. Replacement cost would be about $500,000.
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“These are uncertain fiscal times for schools, and exposing the district to that kind of long-term fiscal liability would make it even more difficult to provide the upgrades we already know are needed,” said School Board President Jim Gallatin. “I believe the schools that have adopted turf will eventually regret the decision and ultimately need to seek tax increases to maintain their facilities.”
Steve Lanxon, former HHS football coach and athletic director and point person for the private group pushing the project, said that the replacement cost would be paid for by re-upping advertisement pledges.
Several other metro-east high schools have funded turf field with private donations, most recently Althoff.
Highland board members have been skeptical.
In a meeting with board members, Lanxon said his group would still be interested in helping to build an indoor conditioning facility at the high school.
He said the facility would open up a lot of opportunities for all of the school’s sports teams. He also said it would help to give more training space to make up for the school’s lack of multiple gymnasiums.
At least one of the large sponsors that promised to back the turf project through advertising was still interested in supporting the conditioning facility, Lanxon said.
It is unknown what the facility would cost at this point or how much in donations and advertising could be raised.
Lanxon said he is fine with setting the turf field aside, as long as the locker rooms do get fixed.
“I think all of us coaches felt all along the locker rooms needed to be a priority,” Lanxon said. “So really, it was part of our plan anyway to do the locker rooms, but now we are going to go about it in more of a direct way.”
Sutton said any improvements would still have to be paid for by outside fundraising.