Vernon school board may go with natural grass over artificial turf for ball fields | Vernon

VERNON – The playing fields at Rockville High School are in need of renovation, and some Board of Education members are tending to use natural grass instead of artificial turf.

During a presentation to the board on Monday, members were shown three options for the top fields: keep the current baseball and softball fields with natural grass, replace with artificial grass, and use a “hybrid” which would require the baseball to be removed.

The current setup consists of a baseball field, a softball field and an overlay area between them that can be used for soccer, soccer, field hockey or lacrosse. The current complex consists entirely of natural grass.

The baseball field has not been used for years due to safety concerns about the uneven surface that has forced varsity and junior varsity teams to play at Henry Park.

All of the options featured include new fences and backstops, shelters, spectator seats, walkways, and lighting.

An early estimate for natural grass design is about $ 2.5 million.

However, with a natural lawn, improvements can be made incrementally, which should be done according to board member Stephen Linton.

“That’s probably more of a reality based on our budget and needs,” he said.

He said that for decades the cost between artificial turf and natural turf is “a wash”.

Linton said the project will likely be phased out, adding the lights and bleachers in the future to avoid budgeting a large sum of money in a single fiscal year.

He and Vice Chairman David Kemp noted that a natural surface could also be used for overflow parking for school events, but an artificial field could not.

In his conversations with Andrew Rockett, the headmaster of Rockville High School, Linton said he learned that Rockett would prefer to have the baseball field renovated so that both the varsity and junior varsity teams in the school could be used can play.

He added that restricting the use of the field at Henry Park would take the pressure off of maintaining the regularly used field outside of the city.

Linton said the school system should “celebrate the gem” they have in high school that has all the facilities in one place so that there is no need to spend money on travel expenses.

“It’s a big advantage when the kids just go out of the locker room and are right there,” he said.

Board member Linda Gessay agreed, saying, “I think students would be happier in school.”

It costs about $ 30,000 a year to maintain a lawn, but it could take more than 50 years to properly maintain the field, said Kevin Fuselier, a consultant at Milone & MacBroom, the company that works with the school board.

However, overuse could degrade the field faster, which would then require a “major overhaul” for repair, he said.

The second concept envisions an entirely man-made turf field that would be the largest in the country, Fuselier said.

It would require more fences to keep animals out and is costing about $ 5 million.

Some of the benefits of artificial turf include less maintenance and a consistent playing field, Fuselier said.

Kemp indicated that the Alliance District grant would not fund a synthetic field.

The third design is to renovate parts of the softball field, remove the baseball field and install a multi-purpose field made of artificial turf. That’s about a $ 3 million suggestion if lighting and other features were included.

Board member Thomasina Russell asked about health concerns related to artificial turf.

Fuselier said that although the artificial turf contains recycled tires, studies have shown that “using recycled tires does not pose any increased health risks”.

Cheshire-based Milone & MacBroom began working with an ad hoc committee on a feasibility study a few months ago to explore options for the fields.

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