Prescott High School’s track and football field are in such poor repair the track team was unable to host any home meets this season.
Other high school football and soccer coaches, as well as referees, called the field that is used year-round for assorted sporting events, band competitions and student activities a safety hazard.
Three marching band members this year suffered sprained ankles after stepping into gopher holes, school leaders said.
Patch repairs to both have been made over the years — the track dates back to 1996 and the high school field back to 1966 — but the time has come to do something more, according to school athletic officials and members of the Governing Board whose children are on teams or in the band that use that field.
At a special meeting on Tuesday night, three members of the Governing Board — members Greg Mengarelli and Scott Hicks were absent — talked about the status of the track and field with PHS Athletic Director Missy Townsend, district official Chris Larson, who is in charge of facilities and transportation, and next year’s High School Principal Mark Goligoski.
Superintendent Joe Howard had to depart the meeting early to attend a high school band event, so he was not part of the hourlong conversation that was not scheduled for any action. Howard is well aware of the conditions, and has been talking with high school leaders about potential options as those relate to safety, wear and tear and cost. Howard said he expects this will be a board action item in the near future as any construction is weather-reliant and will require adjusting the athletic schedules. Howard expects the bond dollars will be used to cover repair or replacement.
Governing Board President John Mackin described this as a “big fix.”
From conversation and options, Mackin said it is clear the track and field needs more than the “Band-Aid” approach used in past years because of budget constraints. The fill and crown on the field, as well as irrigation and drainage, have been inadequate for decades, Mackin said. There are lanes on the track that are completely unusable at this time, he added.
“This is a unique endeavor,” Mackin said.
Part of the Tuesday night conversation was about whether artificial turf might be a suitable field replacement, Mackin said. Townsend has researched that option and is not in favor.
“So that may not be the best fix for us,” Mackin said.
As for cost to do this work, Mackin said just replacing the track could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million; the type of surface selected will be key in the price. A new grass field could add another $1 million to that price tag depending on how much work is required to meet demands for use, he said.
In a prior discussion relative to next year’s budget, several board members were clear that a quick fix always proves more expensive in the long run because repairs are needed far more often. They seemed in favor of doing a proper overhaul of both athletic venues rather than saving now only to pay more later.
“When do you stop just putting a Band-Aid on it and just start from scratch?” Mackin queried.
The 2015 approved $15 million bond does allow the district to use funds to upgrade facilities. Howard said this clearly falls into that category.
The timing to make a decision has not yet been determined; it’s possible work could be started sometimes next year. Based on costs, though, board members seem to favor doing both jobs at the same time because they would not want equipment needed to do the field work to damage a new track.
Bottomline: Student safety dictates a solution be found sooner than later, officials said.
“This is not to impress other school districts. There is no ulterior motive. This is a matter of the safety of our student athletes,” Mackin said.