Bond package includes artificial turf for middle schools
March 27, 2012
By Tom Corrigan
There are a couple of themes that come up over and over as backers and school officials talk about the prospect of placing artificial turf on the fields of each of the five Issaquah School District middle schools.
The upcoming bond package also would provide the middle schools with rubberized outdoor running tracks if voters decide to approve the $219 million capital improvement plan.
District officials hope to install the turf and tracks at a cost of $1.5 million per school, not counting fields that could go in at a transplanted Issaquah Middle School.
The IMS fields would be added after the school is rebuilt; associated costs are not specifically spelled out in the district’s bond package.
In terms of repeated themes, the most common claim is that artificial-turf fields could be used far more often than the current natural-turf models. According to backers and the school administration, the reason is obvious: It tends to rain a lot here, which leaves natural-turf fields unusable.
“Fields are taken out of service for weeks at a time,” said Lesley Austin, co-chairwoman of Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, the nonprofit group promoting the school bond issue.
With artificial turf in place, the fields could see up to five times the number of practices and games, according to Sara Niegowski, district director of communications. That assertion was repeated by many others.
“Speaking bluntly, our field is in pretty poor condition,” said Ann Swiftney, IMS athletic director.
Flooding problems are common and the field becomes unusable. Swiftney talked about a soccer game that recently was cancelled because of field conditions. Maywood Middle School Principal Jason Morse said much the same.
“The field is really the classroom for our physical education classes,” he said, adding the school has some 400 to 600 students taking P.E. each day.
In winter, the Maywood field is little more than an inaccessible mud pit, he added.
“You step onto the field and you sink in a couple of inches,” Morse said.
Another repeated argument is that artificial turf would save the district significant maintenance dollars as opposed to natural-turf fields. Niegowski put the amount at about $30,000 per year per school for a total of about $150,000 a year districtwide.
If the fields end up seeing more use, one more common contention is that the artificial turf will end up paying for itself over time, partly through reduced maintenance costs but also through added fees collected due to additional use by community groups.
“It’s going to be an added resource for everyone,” Swiftney said of the artificial turf she believes will make fields usable year round.
How much extra use the fields would receive is hard to say.
City of Issaquah spokeswoman Autumn Monahan declined to speculate on how much more the city Parks & Recreation Department might use the artificial turf fields, saying there would have to be a new deal worked out between the schools and the city. Local youth leagues contacted did not respond to requests for comment, but school officials said the fields are currently used by baseball, football, soccer and lacrosse organizations.
Morse said football league use causes considerable wear and tear to the existing natural-turf field at Maywood. He added that while he would welcome more use of revamped fields by the community, his top priority is his students.
“I’m really looking forward to the access it’s going to provide my P.E. students and teachers,” he said.
While much discussion focused on the fields, Morse and Swiftney also said the rubberized running tracks would be an asset as well. Teams regularly use brooms to sweep water off of the tracks, Morse said. Swiftney said she often loses use of a running lane to flooding. And both said the cinder tracks can be a safety hazard. A fall on the track can be serious, Swiftney said.
“It can tear you up pretty badly,” she added.
If the bond passes, a new IMS will be built directly next to Issaquah High School. Couldn’t IMS students use the running track and fields at IHS? Swiftney doesn’t think that would work.
“They have their own population that uses that track and field year round,” she said.
It would not be practical, she added, to have teams from the different schools using the fields or tracks at the same time.
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.