Varsity Extra

West Ada wants to add fourth artificial turf field — but no one wants to build it

The grass isn’t always greener — or safer — when high schools install artificial turf

High school football artificial turf fields around Boise, Idaho, bring safety concerns because of inconsistent oversight of industry safety and testing standards. Buzz Splittgerber, owner of Buzz Turf Synthetic Turf Testing talks about the process
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High school football artificial turf fields around Boise, Idaho, bring safety concerns because of inconsistent oversight of industry safety and testing standards. Buzz Splittgerber, owner of Buzz Turf Synthetic Turf Testing talks about the process

The West Ada School District has shelved plans to replace the football field at Centennial High with a multi-use artificial turf field.

The state’s largest school district planned to approve a bid for the field at its board meeting last week and have a new field for the Patriots this fall. But no company submitted a bid for the project by the April 3 deadline, so the district will wait until next year to try again.

“Since we didn’t get any bids, we thought we would take it to bid again (this year),” said Jason Warr, the activities director for the school district. “But the concern over there is we didn’t feel like it was in the best interest to rush it back through.”

The district didn’t receive any bids for the Centennial field because Northwest Nazarene is also accepting bids for a turf field project, district purchasing agent Mike Carrithers wrote to the school board. Carrithers believes companies didn’t want to compete for both projects and try to meet two deadlines at once.

Northwest Nazarene Sports Information Director Craig Craker said the college is accepting bids for an artificial turf project but hasn’t awarded a contract yet. He said accepting bids doesn’t mean the school will build a turf field. He couldn’t provide any other details.

West Ada already has artificial turf fields at three of its five high schools — Eagle, Meridian and Rocky Mountain. Boosters originally raised money for the fields. But the district paid Sprinturf $592,491 for a replacement field at Meridian in the summer of 2016 and $621,204 for a new field at Eagle last summer.

All money for turf fields comes from the district’s capital fund, which can’t be used to pay teachers’ salaries. A district facilities levy last passed in 2015 gives the district the authority to raise $16 million per year to fund building upgrades, repairs and maintenance, district spokesman Eric Exline said.

The projects at Eagle and Meridian replaced already existing turf fields due to safety concerns. But a turf field at Centennial would require the district to tear out an existing grass field for an artificial one.

Exline said West Ada is considering an artificial turf field for Centennial because it sits on the smallest campus, 38 acres, of the district’s five high schools.

“The real benefit of turf is the ability to use that part of your school grounds significantly more,” Exline said. “You can have PE on it, you can have marching band on it, you can have lacrosse on it, you can play soccer on it.”

Centennial and Mountain View remain the only high schools in the West Ada School District without an artificial turf field. Warr and Exline said the district doesn’t have any firm plans to build a turf field at Mountain View. But that could become an option in the future.

“I’m sure that discussion will come up as we take the next step,” Warr said.

Plans for a new high school projected to open in the fall of 2020 at Ustick and McDermott roads also include an artificial turf field. And Rocky Mountain’s field, originally installed in 2008, will need to be replaced in the next couple years as it ages, meaning West Ada could spend a total of more than $3 million if it installs artificial turf at all six of its high schools.

West Ada has made multiple missteps and faced plenty of headaches with its turf fields in the past two years. The district twice failed to follow industry safety standards in 2016 after Eagle’s field flunked safety tests, allowing players to compete on a field with “life-threatening” measurements without the required subsequent testing.

Sprinturf then blew past the Aug. 4 deadline to replace Eagle’s field last summer, threatening the Mustangs’ home football opener. Crews didn’t finish the field until two hours before kickoff Aug. 25.

Sprinturf also still has not finished $130,000 worth of upgrades to Eagle’s track that were part of its contract with West Ada. The D-zones — the semicircles inside the track that host the school’s long, triple and high jumps pits — remained unpaved, costing the Mustangs their home track schedule this spring.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

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