Condition of outdoor athletic facilities passionate topic at school board meeting
The hot topic at the Clay Community School Board of Trustees June meeting was the condition of the high school outdoor athletic facilities, especially the Northview High School football field.
To keep the current natural grass surface, construct and maintain a more plush grass playing field or consider replacing the field with a synthetic one are the questions at the middle of the debate.
“If anybody went out there tonight, or any other time, and walked across that field; if you had a kid who played on it; if you used to be a player, know anything about sports or are the least bit concerned about injuries or safety, you’d be appalled like I am,” said board member Dr. Michael Shaw. “The conditions of that football field are completely unacceptable, and something has to be done by the start of this year.”
Board member Amy Burk Adams said the maintenance department workers were doing the best they can at the field, and Shaw agreed, saying he didn’t blame them.
“They’ve got no way to water it, we can start there,” he said, admitting that he felt the situation was creating a potential liability for the school corporation. “It’s not a matter of seeding and watering anymore, that’s not even an option, I don’t think.”
The bottom line for the school board is player safety.
In April concerns regarding the condition of the track/football fields and the open field where the band practices at Northview High School were presented to the board. The list was compiled by administrative staff members including NHS Athletic Director Scott Buell, Football Coach Mark Raetz and Marching Knights Band Director Bob Medworth.
The Indiana State Athletic Association has moved one track invitational away from the high school due some areas not meeting the ISHAA regulations and for safety concerns. The hard, rough surface of the grass while playing on the football field has also became a safety concern for the coaches, especially the potential of concussions. And, according to Medworth, the marching band does not perform on grass fields anymore during competitions so the football field isn’t used by the band department any longer.
“I agree with Michael 100 percent. We heard two months ago that this facility was not safe, and we done nothing,” said board member Ron Scherb, who added even if the board approved a plan of action that night it would still take time to complete such a project. “Fix the problem before somebody gets hurt or shut it done. I don’t know why we are talking about the future when we know we got a problem now.”
Adams agreed, noting that several sports activities will begin conditioning training in July for the fall, then asked what could and should be done now to remedy the problem because shutting down the football field is not a good option.
Using an estimated $750,000 to install a synthetic football field, which is an extra curricular activity, at Northview High School has been a difficult topic for several years.
During the original secondary renovation project, which included all the “wants, needs and desires” brought up by participants during the feasibility assessment meetings, was trimmed down from $65 million to the current $33 million in 2015, the goals at that time was classroom education and being good stewards of taxpayers’ money. The remaining “alternative list” of things cut from the plans included the possibility of reconditioning the grass field (an estimated $350,000 with annual maintenance costs between $40,000-$50,000) or installing synthetic turf for the football field.
“I remember when we borrowed the money there was hubbub and scuttlebutt about borrowing more so we could do AstroTurf, and some of us had strong opinions on that then not to do that,” Adams said. “Cause this is not an affluent community, and I feel a little bit embarrassed that we are even discussing putting $750,000 into a football field when we just read a memo from Ernie Simpson about how high the percentages of our children who don’t have enough money to eat food.”
Adams wanted to know how many students would actually benefit from the field, and why even consider this option when there isn’t a football field at Clay City High School.
“Why can’t we do maintenance right now?” Adams asked, wondering why the current staff couldn’t do that in an economical way right now. “Why hasn’t it been done?”
Superintendent Jeff Fritz explained a professional grounds keeper would have the knowledge on how to manage and maintain sports fields, nut no one on the current staff at the Clay Community School Corporation does.
“This is something that has been discussed for a while,” Fritz said about conversations among various athletic directors and coaches about the conditions of the outer facilities. “That was what was presented in April, a kind of vision they had for some needs, and it wasn’t strictly about synthetic surface. There were other needs and things as well. That’s how this all came about. We have options here, and we have to do something.”
However, Fritz pointed out the NHS football field is not a professional football complex with a budget to maintain it whether it remains a grass field or a turned into a synthetic surface.
“This is completely up to the board,” Fritz said. “You give us direction on what you’d like us to do, and we will be glad to entertain those.”
Scherb requested information about contracting someone to help determine what all is wrong with the football field be put on the July agenda.
Board member Tom Reberger advised contacting other facilities who have professional grounds keepers to see if someone could take a look at the football field and offer potential solutions that are affordable for the school corporation.
“I drive by the baseball and softball fields at Rose Hulman on a regular basis, and they look nice,” said Reberger, who asked the board to consider asking a professional grounds keeper to come over as a consultant and make some suggestions about what to do now. “We’re not going to solve all the problems in 60 days, but we can sure make them better.”
Reberger and Scherb also suggested to see if local lawn care companies could help with the situation, but Reberger pointed out that maintaining a sports facility is different than mowing someone’s front yard.
“We have got to be concerned about all the kids, and we have to make a concerted effort to do what we can do, the best we can do as quickly as possible,” said Reberger, urging the administration to check all the available resources for more information. “Find out who’s got a good looking field and what they are doing to it and who’s doing it for them.”
More information about this topic will be presented at the July board meeting in the board room of the Central Administrative Office, 1013 S. Forest Avenue, Brazil. Meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m.