Sure Sierra High School would love to have an artificial turf football field and an all-weather track.
But if getting one installed by the Manteca Unified School District means that they’re on the hook for maintaining it long-term for years to come, they’re not so sure that they want it.
In the third and final study session Tuesday night the Manteca Unified School District Board of Education learned that there might me more to making the jump to synthetic surfaces than just footing the bill for local high schools – a discussion that was sparked when they voted during a similar meeting to accept bids to replace the existing field surface at Weston Ranch High School and overhaul the track facilities.
It wasn’t until the issue of long-term maintenance costs was brought up and the suggestion was made that it could be up to the individual sites to cover it that Sierra High Athletic Director Anthony Chapman stood up and said that if that were the case, they’d almost be better off not pushing for it. They cited examples of nearby high schools that took the plunge to artificial surfaces without long-term replacement plans that are showing extensive wear-and-tear that make them almost worse to play on than subpar natural grass fields. He used Sonora and Calaveras as examples and noted that Oakdale High School – which privately raised almost all of the money needed to install it – is starting to edge into that territory.
That’s not to say that they don’t want something.
According to defending CIF Division IV-A Champion head coach Jeff Harbison, the extensive use that the field got between the football team and the youth football programs that play on it during the year could have been detrimental to the team’s play had they hosted more than one of the five playoff games they made in the run up to the historic State Championships. Had Sierra been called on to host the game, he said, they don’t know whether they would want to.
Chapman, who was the head track and field coach at Sierra when the artificial track was laid down and oversaw a committee that setup a long-term replacement fund that should have enough money after 12 years to pay for a resurfacing, said that while the offer by the district – which came in at between $3.42 and $3.54 million – is generous, not having a mechanism built into it would place too much of a burden on the individual schools to handle the long-term care and maintenance on their own.
The board had already visited with Weston Ranch, Manteca and East Union High Schools, and took their final direction Tuesday from representatives from Sierra and Lathrop High School – which hosted the event in its performing arts theater.
And it wasn’t as cut and dry for Lathrop High School either.
While Lathrop Athletic Director Nicole Burrows said that staffs of the respective programs that would use the facilities are very much in favor of the project, they also had some concerns as well – including the heat on the field during practices and games played during the warm summer months, and whether or not artificial surfaces protect athletes for injuries like concussions the same way that natural grass surfaces do.
The construction for Lathrop’s facility is estimated to be at around $4.28 million – slightly more expensive that Sierra’s because the template for the all-weather track surface is already laid down at the older of the two facilities.
Trustee Stephen Schluer said that while the proposals that were before them were something for the board to consider, the reason that the meetings were being held with representatives from the other schools is to get input as to what they would like to see if the funding could be lined up to make the dream facilities a reality – including changing the synthetic turf to natural grass if a site chose that as their best option.