Artificial turf installed at Wauwatosa's Whitman Middle School soccer field August 26 2014

The Wauwatosa School District is taking small steps toward updating its athletic fields. The latest project includes installing an artificial turf soccer field at Whitman Middle School that will be ready for game play by mid-September.

Whitman houses two regulation-sized soccer fields. One is for game play and the other for practice-only. It also has tennis courts. Girl and boy soccer teams from both high schools use the soccer fields.

The district has historically prohibited soccer practice and community use on the game field because overuse would ruin the grass.

Now that it is being fitted with artificial turf, overuse won't be a problem. Use will be encouraged.

"Now that it's turf, it will be open for community use. We expect the district to use it much more," said Tom Kulczewski, manager of building and grounds.

Kulczewski worked with Michael Wick, recreation director, to advise the district on field improvement. It cost $717,303 to turf the Whitman soccer field, according to school board meeting minutes from June 23, 2014.

Artificial turf may be an investment, but there is a maintenance cost benefit. Kulczewski said that artificial turf requires less maintenance and has safety advantages. With it, students can play soccer in the pouring rain and are less prone to slipping on its surface.

While turfing the field has created an additional practice space for soccer players, there is still a demand for fields.

"We have such a lack of field space. There are so many soccer teams," said Kulczewski.

Other proposed projects include turfing the practice soccer field at Whitman, the football field at West High School and the softball fields at West and at Longfellow Middle School.

Last year, the district added another full-sized baseball diamond with an artificial turf infield to Breitlow Field. It also converted the existing diamond to artificial turf.

The diamonds are now safe for play in the rain, which is advantageous for spring ball. They also are versatile to different league levels.

"When you have turf, you can move the bases so little kids can play at different levels," said Kulczewski.