has offered the District 203 school board $1 million toward the cost of installing two synthetic turf fields on New Trier’s Northfield Campus.
The boosters would make that donation over three years, booster club president Kaci Smith told the New Trier Township High School board during its Nov. 21 meeting. The project involves one field to be constructed in the stadium and one on the lighted practice field just east of the stadium.
“Doing both fields at once would meet the booster club mission” of providing opportunities for as many students as possible, Smith said. “It was the consensus of the booster club that it would be a more effective use of time and money.”
Smith said she is confident that the booster club can raise enough money to make good on the offer.
“I cannot recall any conversation I’ve had with people not really willing to support this,” she said.
While school board members all expressed gratitude for the booster club’s generosity, they did not commit to the project yet.
District 203 administrators expect the cost to be about $2.8 million to convert both the stadium and the practice field to synthetic turf. Laying turf in the stadium alone would cost $1.4 million.
If the district were to decide to put synthetic turf only in the stadium, the booster club would offer $400,000 over two years, Smith said.
Changing the fields from natural grass to synthetic turf would allow them to be used much more heavily by a wider range of student activities, from kinetic wellness classes – the school's name for physical education – to those in interscholastic and intramural sports, said New Trier's Athletic Director Randy Oberembt.
The change would be most dramatic in the stadium, which now is left unused all summer to allow the grass to recover before the fall football season. Meanwhile practice field usage would change significantly as well, allowing teams to practice outdoors earlier in the spring and later in the fall without the worry of rainy weather leaving the field a muddy mess.
Oberembt and a committee of coaches and others who use the school’s athletic fields on a regular basis would like to see the district convert both areas.
In a report to the school board, Oberembt said that the Illinois High School Association for several years has not scheduled sectional or supersection tournament games in field sports at schools that do not have synthetic turf fields. The likelihood that those games would have to be postponed because of field conditions is just too high, he said.
“If you can’t play a supersectional game, that affects the whole state,” he said.
Oberembt also highlighted that the girls’ soccer team avoids scheduling home games before mid-April because it count on playable conditions on its grass field until then. And while synthetic turf would be expensive to install, it would have far lower maintenance costs that natural grass, he added.
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