Fort Worth school board to vote on artificial turf for fields January 09 2015

For months, Fort Worth school district football coaches have lobbied for artificial turf practice fields as the most effective way to spend the $1 million each campus gets as part of the $490 million bond package voters approved in 2013.

For months, school board trustees discussed the issue but were left with tied hands because of the language in the proposition, which didn’t include artificial turf as an upgrade.

Now, a $10.5 million plan is in place that would give 11 Fort Worth high schools artificial turf, on top of the $1 million in upgrades for each campus.

Trustees will vote Tuesday on a measure to install artificial turf fields over the next two years at the high schools that lack synthetic turf, the district announced Thursday. Arlington Heights and Paschal already have artificial turf fields.

The $10.5 million to cover the costs would be transferred from the district’s internal service fund — used to cover workers compensation and unemployment funds — to the general fund. District auditors reported that there was more money than needed to cover current and future liabilities.

“We know how important this safety issue is for both our athletes and band members,” interim Superintendent Pat Linares said Thursday in a statement. “Since the fields were not part of the voter-approved 2013 Capital Improvement Program, it is truly fortuitous we can commit this non-bond money to provide [artificial] turf fields.”

The board approved in September a plan to give all 13 athletic programs $1 million for across-the-board upgrades to field houses and locker rooms. The estimated cost of a synthetic turf field is $750,000.

The $1 million in upgrades at each school is still expected to happen, separate from any installation of artificial turf, district spokesman Clint Bond said.

“The voters did vote on the million for athletic improvements [not including turf],” Bond said. “That money would still be dedicated to that.”

Concerns of several city coaches would also be met if Tuesday’s measure passes. Grass fields often wore down to grass and patches of dirt that harden in dry conditions or become a muddy pit in rainy conditions. Schools such as South Hills and Trimble Tech have only one grass practice field used by multiple teams.

“We are now able to provide safer, more durable and more cost-effective surfaces year-round,” Linares said.

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