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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 27 - March 5, 2002


FieldTurf traded for classrooms, security measures

Express Sports Editor

From the get-go it looked like a long shot, a Hail Mary.

The idea of a FieldTurf artificial surface at the new Wood River High School football stadium in Hailey was a nice dream, one usually dreamed at college and professional levels.

Blaine County School District trustees applied financial realities to the dream at a special board meeting last Wednesday and shot down proposed athletic field upgrades in favor of nuts-and-bolts add-ons to the new Hailey high school.

Dr. Jim Lewis, superintendent of schools, said the board elected to address student safety issues and to add six classrooms instead of approving upgrades on the high school football field and track.

"We were all disappointed," said Dr. Lewis. "But we couldn’t justify the field when the actual bids came in and we realized it would cost over $600,000 for the turf instead of the $320,000 we had expected.

"First of all, we were delighted the building came in at $800,000 under the original estimate, which put us at a point where we felt we could add alternates."

The alternates the board decided upon in the bid summary included six additional classrooms, four on the northeast side of the new building and two on the northwest side.

In addition, the board elected to spend $70,000 for deicing measures in front of outside doors; $30,000 for electronic security doors at every exit; and $170,000 for a 2,100-square foot field house at the new football field.

"The ground-level field house includes a concession stand, heated bathrooms and complete storage," Lewis said.

"It’s really going to be a beautiful football stadium, with the look of a college stadium. The seating on the home side will be 1,500, double the old capacity. We took our old seating and that will be used on the visitor side, about 700 seats."

Besides denying the synthetic grass surface, now being used in the new Seattle Seahawks football stadium and other cutting-edge facilities, the school board also nixed upgrades on the track.

Lewis said the board decided against spending $106,000 for an upgrade from a rubberized latex track to a pricier polyethylene track.

The numbers told the story.

"At the beginning, we were looking at the difference between a sod field and a synthetic field at around $320,000. It looked doable then, especially when (football coach) John Blackman said he would try to raise half of it," Lewis said.

"When our three landscaping bids came in, however, they would only credit us at the most $88,000 toward the synthetic field, which put our actual cost at over $600,000.

"It was too bad, because we could see all sorts of extra uses for a field with synthetic turf. But if this synthetic field is something the public is still interested in, and they want to raise the money, we could certainly peel back the sod field and have it installed."

Wood River football coach Blackman, who had been raising money to install a synthetic grass field and had taken two out-of-state trips since January to view existing fields, took the decision in stride.

"There was no way I was going to raise $400,000 for Field Turf," he said. "It made good financial sense to keep the field in sod, though. The school board’s choice was well made.

"I knew we’d get a nice, new sod field anyway, but I was hoping we’d get Field Turf for the public. It means we’ll have to limit the use of the field."

Blackman said he expects the sod to be down by early summer, so Wood River can be playing on it by this fall. Practice fields will have to be seeded, however, which means they won’t be ready until 2003.


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