Originally Published: November 7, 2018 9:12 p.m.
Prescott Mayor and Unified School District Governing Board member Greg Mengarelli asked just one question about spending $2 million to replace and rebuild the high school’s track and field complex.
“What took so long?” Mengarelli queried.
On election night, the five-member board voted unanimously in favor of investing in a major overhaul of the Badgers’ main outdoor athletic complex — and for the first time will replace the natural grass football/soccer field with an artificial turf system with a state-of-the-art concussion prevention layer.
Almost on the brink of tears after the board’s wholehearted support, Prescott High Athletic Director Missy Townsend expressed extreme gratitude for the board’s willingness to invest in its student athletes who are a competitive force and are worthy of state-of-the-art facilities similar to their regional peers.
“I promise this will be a facility the community will be proud of,” Townsend assured.
In her four years of research, Townsend said she came to the realization that while a natural grass field may be attractive and desirable, it simply is not suited to this high school’s needs, or that of the community. With only one major field for practice and competition, Townsend said, the demands for use and poor base soils have forced it to erode so it is no longer a suitable playing surface — and it drinks more than 970,000 gallons of water a year.
Board member Tina Seeley did question some of the differences related to the playing surface, including the temperature of the turf. The answer was that turf is hotter than grass, but today’s systems are such that athletes will not be burned or injured, with officials clear turf fields exist all over the Phoenix Valley.
In Prescott’s athletic conference, there is only one high school without artificial turf, and that is Lee Williams High School in Kingman.
Townsend prepared a thorough cost analysis between replacement of another grass field, or moving to an artificial turf field. The math proved the expense over a decade far outweighed a synthetic field — $776,393 to replace now with $1.661 million of costs over the next decade. In contrast, the artificial turf will cost $1.03 million to install with only about $50,000 worth of costs over a decade. The savings: $576,640, or more than enough to cover the cost to replace the top turf layer in a decade or so.
As for the track, it is 23 years old and no longer adequate for today’s level of competition; the team has not been able to host a meet for three years. The high-jump area no longer meets standard surface criteria, Townsend explained.
With that project, Townsend said she and the administration are recommending the installation of a concrete post tension subgrade under the track with two turf areas suitable for high jumpers. The cost for that is just under $1 million with 20-year costs projected at $1.236 million, including resurfacings at year 7 and year 14. The cost for an asphalt base is $678,087 with costs of $1.5 million over 20 years. Again, Townsend suggested the 20-year savings with the longer-lasting concrete base are projected to be $256,397.
The other projected costs for the athletic complex that were not decided on Tuesday night were the installation of new LED stadium lights and railings on the concrete home bleachers. The estimated cost for both would add just under a half million more to the price. The stadium now has lights that are over 35 years old and cannot be replaced, and do not meet the accepted lighting standards for such fields.
Board member Maureen Erickson endorsed adding the lights and safety railings to the project as she saw it as integral to the overhaul of that facility. Other members asked whether or not there might be a way to get some donations that might help offset some of those costs.
Townsend did note that with a turf field there will now be opportunities to garner some additional revenues for the sports programs by renting the facilities when the school is not using them.
Superintendent Joe Howard said the administration will take a look at those additional costs, and how those might be funded. He said they would then return to the board with a recommendation, possibly as soon as the Dec. 4 meeting.
The funding formula for the track and field are to be divided between bond funds for the track and building sales money for the field. A member of the bond advisory committee Michael Ellegood, a retired civil engineer, offered a wholehearted endorsement to the entire project and financial package.
General Acrylics in Phoenix, a national installer of these types of tracks and fields that has worked with the district since the initial track installment, will be the contractor for the project.
As for when the new complex will be ready for play, Townsend said they want to do it as soon as it is feasible but she will not allow it to be a “rush job.” The construction and permitting process are expected to take about four months. At the latest, Townsend said it would be anticipated the complex be ready for the start of the 2019 football season.
Student board representative Sydney Seeley, a senior who plays on the soccer team, said the only regret she has heard is from seniors who will not get to play there.
“I think it’s awesome,” Seeley concluded.