Artificial active

Fond du Lac School Board discusses synthetic turf at high school

FOND DU LAC – The debate over a new synthetic turf pitch at Fond du Lac High School resurfaced this week at a school board workshop meeting.

Fond du Lac School District Superintendent Jeffrey Fleig estimated that about $ 5.3 million could cover improvements to the football field, including an artificial turf surface, bleachers and lighting upgrades. .

The field would be used by football, track and field and soccer teams, as well as the marching band and physical education classes.

However, how much money the district could commit from its fund balances has yet to be determined, and Fleig said he will discuss it with the district’s business services manager, Michael Gerlach.

“I think Mike and I need to assess this and what impact it would have on the rating of our bonds,” he said.

Council members shared mixed opinions on the proposal as it stands. Susan Jones questioned its relevance to education.

“I don’t see it as helping students learn,” she said at the board meeting on Monday.

Board member Mark Henschel said he sees the sports field project as a way to engage students, make them active and increase their participation in school.

“We need students in our classrooms in order to educate them,” he said. “We have a lot of good things sitting in high school, and a lot of kids are sitting on the sidelines watching because they feel like they can’t participate for some reason.”

Brittany Hoerth, a board member, said she sees the long-term benefits of such a project.

“My family is by no means a sporting family, but I can see the big picture and the benefit of exploring a project of this size for what it can do for the district as a whole,” said Hoerth said.

School board president Mark Jurgella said another discussion in January will cover more specific questions about funding, but no action will be taken.

The project is unlikely to be eligible for funding from recent federal aid through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Program, Gerlach said, although he said he would find out.

Future discussions could also cover other issues raised by board members, including the estimated cost of not having usable land, the amount of revenue lost due to a lack of concessions during the pandemic, and safety and efficiency advantages of artificial turf over natural turf.

The Long Debate on Fruth Field

Fruth Field has taken a hit from flooding and the regular wear and tear of high school and St. Mary Springs Academy football teams, but plans for artificial turf haven’t gone very far in the past.

In 2016, the council proposed a $ 2 million project to improve the Fruth pitch, including turf and an amphitheater, as well as an extension to accommodate football.

Some residents and board members questioned the use of district fund balances rather than community fundraising.

The turf project was officially rejected the same year, but a group of alumni supporters came forward in 2019, ready to raise money for new facilities in high school.

The alumni group came up with two projects – an indoor training complex and an outdoor multisport stadium with a synthetic turf pitch – aimed at increasing recreational opportunities and enabling competitions and training in all weather conditions.

The total estimated cost of the stadium alone was $ 4.5 million, which the alumni group hoped to raise in donations of $ 3 million. The proposal would include the naming rights to call the complex the Jim Johnson Memorial Stadium, in honor of one of the most successful college football coaches in Cardinal history.

Johnson had died the previous summer at the age of 88. He coached from 1964 to 1974, leading the football team to state championships in 1969 and 1974.

But that fall, the council voted against a resolution to provide $ 1.5 million the balance of the fund to the project.

The St. Mary's Springs Academy football team play their first varsity game on their new artificial turf field against Omro High School on Saturday October 9, 2021 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  Springs won the game 49-7.

Since then, St. Mary Springs Academy embarked on a plan to build a grass field on campus for $ 850,000, replacing its scope of practice.

If the current plan goes forward for the Fond du Lac High School campus, Fruth Field would still be used by other community programs and activities, Henschel said at Monday’s meeting.

Contact Daphne Lemke at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @daphlemke.

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