By Chris Henry
Heading into playoff season with a 9-0 record, the South Kitsap Wolves football team would seem to have nothing standing in their way. But Coach D.J. Sigurdson says the grass field at Joe Knowles Stadium, looking these days like a mud bath, is selling the players and other South Kitsap athletes short.
South Kitsap is one of fewer than a dozen 4A schools in the state that hasn’t already converted to turf fields. Sigurdson says it’s time.
Coaches raised concerns about shortcomings of the field and other district athletic facilities during recent contract negotiations, said Ron Ness, president of the South Kitsap Coaches Association.
“Safety is an issue and making sure we can provide adequate resources for our athletes and the community,” said Ness.
With cuts to South Kitsap School District’s budget this year totaling $6.8 million, no one who uses the fields expects the district will ask voters to approve a capital facilities bond in the near future. So a facilities task force, made up of coaches, maintenance staff and community members, has taken matters into its own hands. They are seeking outside funding for a turf field and more.
At a meeting Monday, the group came up with a lengthy wish list, including upgrades to tracks and ball fields at the junior high and elementary schools, improvements and renovations to the pool, installed in the 1970s, scoreboards, lighting, public restrooms and storage.
The group agreed that district facilities should be made available for community use whenever possible.
Installation of a turf field at the high school would cost an estimated $1.7 million. The turf would need to be replaced in 10 to 12 years, but with infrastructure in place, the replacement cost would be about half the original price, said Brad Martin of Martin Victory Products of Kent, a turf manufacturer’s representative.
The high cost of installing a turf field would be offset in the long run by lower maintenance costs, said Kathleen Simpson of Fields Today, Fit Tomorrow. Her nonprofit group is coordinating with area sports clubs, local governments and other groups on the installation of turf fields throughout the county.
The annual maintenance cost on the grass field at the high school is $23,000. A turf field costs about $5,000 per year to maintain.
Turf fields present revenue opportunities, Simpson said. Her low-use estimate for one field would be about $57,000 in income for the district per year.
Fields Today, Fit Tomorrow had a hand in the recently opened fields at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. The Bainbridge fields were built despite opposition from a group called Plastic Fields ForNever whose members link artificial turf to lead poisoning, cancer, skin burns and injuries.
Sigurdson said he hadn’t heard of environmental or disease hazards of turf fields. Injuries were a problem in the early days of the technology, but substrate, made of ground up tires, provides a more natural playing surface, he said.
The facilities task force will meet monthly. The public is welcome. The next meeting is 6 p.m. Dec. 7. For information, contact South Kitsap High School Athletic Director Ed Santos at (360) 874-5736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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