CHESTERTON | The Duneland School Corp. board's response to an ambitious proposal to install a synthetic turf field at the Chesterton High School football stadium essentially was: "Show us the money."
Sports and music boosters from the school and community explained economic, athletic and environmental benefits to replacing the existing grass field with a durable artificial surface.
Chesterton High Athletic Director Garry Nallenweg said the synthetic turf embedded in a base of sand and rubber pellets from recycled tires would cost between $750,000 and $850,000.
Friends of Duneland Youth, a new nonprofit group organized to raise funds for the effort, has pledges of $76,000 and could raise $250,000 toward the project, Nallenweg said.
Superintendent Dirk Baer said he supported the community effort to achieve the new field, but "the dollars and cents will tell."
If approved, the project would not be at the expense of any existing program and no general fund dollars -- those supporting instruction -- would be used, Baer said. Other districts around the state are doing without synthetic fields, but the ultimate factor in making a decision would be the best interests of Duneland children, he said.
To help the board decide on district input, Baer told Nallenweg to return at next month's board meeting not with a pledge amount but with a figure of actual cash raised.
"Make it hard for this board to say no," he said.
A synthetic field is not cheap, Nallenweg said, but is cheaper in the long run than a natural surface. Annual maintenance costs would decline from $52,000 to $5,000, he said.
Drainage problems would be alleviated and athlete injuries would decline on the softer surface, he said. It also would be available year round, in any weather condition, allowing for far greater use by athletic teams, physical education classes, the marching band, band competition invitationals along with community football and soccer leagues. That would result in increased rental revenues, he said.
Over the past decade, the grass field had averaged only 22 events and 68 total hours of use each year due to damage from weather and use, Nallenweg said.
The field would be striped for both football and soccer. The estimated life of such a field was 12 to 15 years and most fields carried an eight-year warranty, he said.