King Philip has its eye on artificial turf June 03 2014

Joining several other Attleboro area school systems that have artificial turf athletic fields, planning and fundraising are well under way for a multi-purpose field at King Philip Regional High School.

After years of talk, a $950,000 fundraising campaign was launched late last year for the synthetic field that would be used by residents and students of the three King Philip towns of Wrentham, Plainville and Norfolk. About one-third of the money has already been raised.

The field, which could be used by the football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams for games and practices, and by the marching band for practice, would be installed on the site of the existing grass football field that is showing wear from overuse and age.

A turf field is desperately needed for practices and games, Athletic Director Steven Schairer said.

Only about 40 events or games a year are able to use the current field to preserve its delicate condition - including only home football games and no practices. Field conditions have been so poor, tournament and playoff games haven't been allowed by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Teams must play on other fields - sometimes off site, costing transportation money and affecting the condition of those fields.

The award-winning marching band that numbers about 100 students has had to use the parking lot to practice - a safety and parking issue, school officials say.

The turf field is projected to accommodate the needs of an estimated 500 student athletes and musicians. It will allow for 600 to 800 uses per year.

According to industry statistics, the installation of one turf field is equivalent to about three grass fields.

The school district also expects to be able to reduce current field maintenance costs by about $43,500 per year.

Estimates are bringing the existing field to standards would cost about $350,000, and replacement again a few years later makes a turf field a money saver in the long run, officials say.

Turf fields typically last over a decade. A new grass field also wouldn't be able to be played on for two growing seasons.

A turf field committee has been active in the planning and fundraising for what is being called the King Philip Warrior Turf Field.

A sign in front of the school near Route 140 shows how much has been raised and how much needs to be brought in.

School Principal Lisa Oliveira has made the field one of her pet projects, and spearheaded raising almost $40,000 from a recent Dancing with the Stars fundraiser in Wrentham.

Additional donations of about $5,000 are expected, said Oliveira, who has held in-school fundraisers involving students and others.

Several events are planned between now until November, said Oliveira, who co-chairs the steering committee with Richard Harwood, president of the King Philip Gridiron Club.

An earlier goal was to wrap up fundraising by June to enable the field to be ready for next school year, but that timetable won't be met.

"Anyone who has enjoyed a marching band or athletic event at KPRHS can see the value of our music and sports programs, as well as the pride and determination with which our students compete," Superintendent Elizabeth Zielinski said. "Yet, when you attend an outdoor event at KPRHS, you see that our fields do not match the quality and the standards that our students deserve."

The field complex had undergone over $1 million in renovations several years ago as part of the $55 million renovation and expansion of the high school. The field has a running track around it, lights, bleachers, a scoreboard and press box.

Upgrading the field is seen as an important step toward creating a first-class facility which will attract statewide events to the high school. Also, the field could be rented out as a revenue generator, officials say.