The Lodi School Board presented on the current state of their football and soccer stadium and its need for improvements at their regular meeting on Monday. However, community members voiced their worries about the need for this project and how it will be paid for.
Chuck Pursell, district administrator, said the district has been having discussions with soccer and football coaches as part of their long-range facility improvement plans to determine needs in the district. These talks determined the high school stadium is in need of a new turf.
“One area of immediate concern is the stadium because of a couple things that have happened over the last couple years in having to move soccer games and having to move football games, including out homecoming game last year because of the field conditions.”
The district has been working with an engineering firm, Point of Beginning, to do an analysis of the field and soil conditions. Pursell said the field does not have proper drainage, which has led to standing water on the field and prevents students and athletes from using it. He said the stadium is also sitting on a couple inches of clay and contributes to water sitting on top of the field.
Vince Breunig, Lodi High School principal, said the district has noticed it has been raining more in the last few years and is causing the field to deteriorate faster.
“We are wetter than we used to be,” Breunig said. “Our field doesn’t have a chance to recover. You have one bad rain event and it takes a year to recover.”
Breunig presented on the possible options they have for the field. The first option would be to continue to do a “Band-Aid approach” where the district continues their regular maintenance of the field at around $15,000-20,000 a year.
The second would be to look at reconstructing a brand new grass field with new drainage and soil improvements at a cost of $800,000. This would also require the district to stay off the field for a minimum of two years while the field has a chance to be reseeded.
The third and final option would be to install artificial turf with an estimated cost of $1.3 million. This cost also includes the refencing of the facility, improved drainage as well as adding shock pads to reduce the risk of concussions. The district would be able to use this field in the fall of 2020 if they began construction in the spring or the summer.
An added benefit to the turf, Breunig said, is it would be able to be used by all students and athletes. At the moment, softball and baseball students can’t use the field, as well as youth football athletes, cheerleaders and currently has limited access for the band.
“We want to make sure kids have the opportunity to play their home games in their stadium,” he said.
Breunig said the district plans to fundraise for $800,000 of the project by reaching out to individuals and businesses as well as holding a public campaign. If the money is raised, the district would then borrow $500,000 through the capital improvement fund to pay for the rest of the project—the amount the taxpayers will pay for.
Pursell said the district is currently paying off their high school Discovery Lab with a state loan and the district could replace that loan with the new stadium loan without increasing the burden on the tax base.
“It’s like substituting one for another without changing the impact on the taxpayer and make it work financially for the district in order to gather that $500,000 in the form of the borrowing we were talking about with the Finance Committee and laid out the financial plan,” Pursell said.
During public comment, residents talked about how they don’t want any “unexpected bills” to come from this, similar to the $1.2 million water booster station. Community members asked whether this project would move forward if the $800,000 wasn’t raised. Breunig said it is the recommendation of the Facility and Finance Committee that this would not progress further if the money wasn’t there.
“If we don’t reach the goal, we don’t start a stadium project,” he said.
Other residents, such as Scott Bilse, spoke during public comment asking about the data for injuries on grass versus artificial turf. Breunig said the district has reached out to health care professionals and determined there is no significant difference between the two when it comes to injuries. He also said there is no connection to playing on rubber and an increased risk in cancer.
The current timeline for this project is to have $800,000 raised by Feb. 1, 2020. Pursell said if they don’t have the money then, the district won’t have time to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) and have contractor bid on it to have it be started in the summer of 2020.
School Board member Adam Steinberg said they’re currently paying for $15,000-20,000 a year on a field “that isn’t working” and spoke in favor of spending $500,000 on artificial turf “that is going to be so much more useful.”
School Board member Angela Lathrop said this project goes beyond having a “cool field” but it’s a desire to have one the district can use and brings people together.
“High school football in a community like this, it’s something that draws a community together,” Lathrop said. “A community coming together for games is something that’s valuable.”
The board approved a contract with Point of Beginning to continue to move the project forward with an estimated planning cost not to exceed $20,000, as well as authorize administration to work with the community and coach to organize fundraising efforts.
With the project moving forward, Breunig said the district will work on putting together a presentation and community meeting to share additional information about the project going forward.