High School Football

$1.7 million later, third West Ada high school is getting a new artificial turf field

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

Meridian High School installed a new artificial turf field in 2016, Eagle followed in 2017 and now it’s Rocky Mountain’s turn.

The West Ada School District approved a $490,980 bid to replace Rocky Mountain’s aging multipurpose field at its school board meeting Tuesday. Diamond Contractors of Eagle won the bid and will install an Astroturf brand field.

Construction can begin May 20 with a deadline to finish by Aug. 2, a week before the Grizzlies’ football team starts fall practice, according to the project specifications.

“It’s just because of its age,” West Ada spokesman Eric Exline said. “That school opened in ‘08, so this was its (11th) year, which is usually what you see for the lifetime of turf.”

Boosters originally donated the turf fields at Rocky Mountain, Meridian and Eagle. But in 2015, West Ada pledged to spend its own money to replace the fields when they reached the end of their lifespans. Artificial turf fields typically last eight to 10 years.

West Ada will have spent $1,704,675 to replace the three turf fields by the time crews finish at Rocky Mountain. All that money comes from the district’s capital fund, which it can’t use to pay teachers. West Ada raises $16 million per year earmarked for facilities through a levy, Exline said.

Rocky Mountain turf rendering.jpg
A rendering of the new artificial turf field at Rocky Mountain High. Courtesy of West Ada School District

The district studied replacing the fields with grass in 2015 but said it found installing a single new grass football field cost nearly $400,000. An artificial turf field allows the district to use the field for other sports and clubs.

Rocky Mountain Athletic Director Troy Rice said the Grizzlies use their field for football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby and physical education classes, and it provides the Grizzlies’ baseball and softball teams a place to practice when their fields are too wet. The school also has rented its field for youth football championships and to local soccer clubs, Rice said in an email.

Two West Ada high schools, Centennial and Mountain View, still use grass fields for all of their sports. The district’s sixth high school, Owyhee, is set to open in the fall of 2021 with an artificial turf field.

West Ada has struggled to properly manage its turf fields and build new ones the past three years.

The district twice failed to follow industry safety standards during the final year of Eagle’s old field, allowing athletes to compete on a field with “life-threatening” impact measurements without the required followup testing, the Idaho Statesman previously reported.

Sprinturf then missed the Aug. 4, 2017, deadline for a replacement field, nearly robbing the Mustangs of their home opener. Crews didn’t finish the field until two hours before the Aug. 25 kickoff.

West Ada also hired Sprinturf for track improvements totaling $130,000. But the company didn’t finish that project in time, either, costing Eagle its home track schedule last spring.

The district has since committed to yearly safety testing of its turf fields, the most frequent in the Treasure Valley. And Eagle’s finished track will host the 5A and 4A state meets May 17-18.

The district also tried to install a new turf field at Centennial last summer as it sits on 38 acres, the smallest site of the district’s five high schools. But no company bid on the project, forcing West Ada to shelve it to possibly the summer of 2020.

Mountain View has also requested the district install a turf field on its campus, according to a letter supplied to Idaho Statesman by the school.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Mountain View has requested a turf field.

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