could have an artificial turf field at its stadium by the start of the 2012 fall sports season. The sticking point? Funding the $1 million carpet.
On Monday, district athletic director Andy Ewald made his case to the school board. He said a lack of space causes St. Louis Park teams to overuse and tear up the school's various grass fields—making them potentially unsafe for athletes.
That includes the stadium field. Though it only gets used about 60 hours every year for football, soccer and lacrosse, as well as graduation, the grass can’t take the wear and tear of more events. A sturdier, synthetic field could see about 3,000 hours of use annually, Ewald projected, opening it up to more games and practices, as well as community events and potential usage from other local schools, such as .
Ewald also pointed to a competitive disadvantage for St. Louis Park teams, noting that nearby schools such as Hopkins, Minnetonka and Edina have at least one artificial turf field.
“For the St. Louis Park community, the thought of a synthetic field at the stadium is no longer a luxury,” Ewald said. “It is a long-overdue necessity.”
School board members voiced support for such a field on Monday night, but the question now is funding.
“I don’t think there’s anyone on this board that doesn’t want to support you,” board member Bruce Richardson told Ewald. “(But) there has to be someone out there who can help us with the stadium.”
Richardson was referring to corporate sponsors, and he urged supporters of a new field to seek out potential funding avenues. City officials have so far pledged “verbal support,” Ewald said, but nothing more tangible.
As it stands, the district could pass a levy to fund a new artificial turf field. For the owner of a home valued at $250,000, such a levy, if passed, would bump annual taxes by $6 over 10 years, said district finance director Sandy Salin.
With a synthetic field, Ewald said, annual maintenance costs would come down from $15,000 to around $4,000. Artificial turf fields need to be replaced every eight to 12 years, he added, but at a current cost of roughly $400,000—not another $1 million.
The athletic director hopes to develop a more concrete funding plan within the next month, with his sights set on a late January school board meeting to get the approval he needs to go forward. If that happens, installation of the new field could be complete by next fall.
Judging by attendance at Monday’s board meeting, there seems to be plenty of community support for this scenario. Representatives of a number of local youth sports associations spoke Monday in favor of a new field. Several members of the St. Louis Park varsity football team, along with new head coach Vince Varpness, applauded throughout the evening.
“Students and their parents are constantly comparing school districts. This will make us more competitive with our neighbors,” assistant girls basketball coach Joel Koch told the board. “This new field will serve as part of your legacy.”
Get Involved: If you want to weigh in on the new field discussions, there are two public sessions—on Dec. 14 and Jan. 4—being held by the district-organized Stadium Improvement Committee. Details .
FIELD USE BY THE NUMBERS (numbers/projections courtesy Andy Ewald)
Current usage: Roughly 60 hours per year
- 4 varsity football games
- 6 varsity girls lacrosse games
- 7 varsity boys soccer games
- 7 varsity girls soccer games
- High school graduation
Projected usage: Upwards of 3,000 hours per year
- Fall and spring varsity sports
- Team practices
- Lower-level high school games
- Park Spanish Immersion physical education classes
- Youth sports
- Rented out for other events