At the March 2, 2015 meeting, the White Bear Lake Area School Board unanimously approved solicitation of bids to begin work for an artificial turf field at White Bear Lake Area High School - South Campus, making the district the seventh out of nine conference schools to have artificial turf this fall.
The project is the result of a task force that convened to work on Strategic Plan priorities, including a Secondary Program and Facilities Review. The four areas of focus of the Secondary Program and Facilities Task Force are: 4Cs learning environment enhancements (collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking); music and performing arts; security and general site improvement; and field and gymnasiums, including priorities from a White Bear Lake Area Athletic Facilities Needs Assessment that was conducted in partnership with municipalities and the township originally in 1998 and was updated in 2008 and 2013.
"I want to thank the community, the community groups and the various representatives of the municipalities involved in this study," said Board member Lori Swanson. "The project has been a long time coming and discussed for many years, and I feel it was carefully studied before it was brought back to the School Board for consideration. I am glad we are having conversation about it now because it continues to be an item of interest to the community."
The turf project, which is estimated to cost a total of $1.3 million, has been built into the district's budget and will not result in a tax increase.
Benefits of Artificial Turf Field
The district expects the artificial turf field project will yield many advantages over the current grass field, but the primary advantage will be that of unlimited and diverse use. With the current grass field, usage is limited to varsity football, soccer and lacrosse games. After the artificial turf is installed, with permanent striping for multiple sports, the field will be available for constant use by many groups as long as the field is not covered in snow.
It is expected that daytime physical education classes will extensively use outdoor space during expanded fall and spring months. Additionally, the number of school teams that use the field will increase dramatically and the Community Services and Recreations Department will expand its use of the field. The turf will also be available to youth sports leagues and other community users.
"An artificial turf field will allow us to hold hundreds of events, not only school district events but also community events," said Finance Director Dr. Wayne Kazmierczak. "This is the district's largest classroom and a true community asset. We are excited that this project will allow us to open up this learning and athletic space to additional students and community members."
Additional benefits of artificial turf include reduced maintenance costs and the elimination of water consumption for irrigation. The district may also realize additional revenue from field rentals by athletic associations and other organizations.
District chooses Mondo field
The district team has chosen to install a Mondo-brand field with an encapsulated pad and Ecofill, a thermoplastic elastomer-based product made using a combination of raw materials and recycled pop bottles and plastic bags.
This particular product was chosen after carefully studying safety and environmental impacts. The base pad provides cushioning that makes this field safer than earlier generations of artificial turf. The pad also allows for using less of the recyclable infill, which decreases the replacement costs. Because of its green color, the product is 30% cooler than the often-used black crumb rubber fields.
Timeline for the project
The artificial turf project, which has been discussed since 2009, has more recently been a discussion item at meetings of the Secondary Facilities Task Force since October, 2014. Updates were provided to the School Board in January and February, 2015. Also, in February, the district hosted a Community Forum and invited community members to attend to learn additional details, discuss the initiatives with School Board members and administration through small-group discussions, and ask questions
The solicitation for bids is currently being advertised. The bid will be brought to the Board for action in April and the project is tentatively scheduled to begin on May 15. Student activities will be moved to alternate locations as necessary at the end of the spring season, a detail that is already being discussed with coaches and activities leaders.
Construction will take place throughout the summer so the stadium will not be available during the summer months with one exception: District and White Bear Lake Relay for Life leaders have worked closely to create a plan that will allow the longstanding event to be hosted at the site on Friday, July 31 and Saturday, August 1 while the site is still under construction.
The artificial turf field is scheduled to be completed in mid-August before the first White Bear Lake Area High School home football game of the season.