Turf’s not up

By Brandon Evans | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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Next season’s Bridgeport Bulls will not inherit the artificial turf.

For the next year at least, the Bulls will continue to stampede over natural grass at the home field.

After months of discussion, the Bridgeport School Board voted 4-2 at Monday night’s meeting not to purchase and install artificial turf at Bull Memorial Stadium.

Board member Ken Kilpatrick made the motion to accept the bid from Paragon Sports Constructors. The Fort Worth-based company proposed a base bid of $764,114, and Scott Stowers seconded it. But they were the only two who voted in favor of the measure. Jim Bost, Marti Hines, Charles Mauldin and Tom Talley all voted against it. Board member Lee Snodgrass was absent.

The district spends between $55,000 and $65,000 per year in utility and labor costs to maintain the grass field. At that rate, it would take more than 11 years for the new field to pay for itself in terms of savings on labor and utilities.

“It only costs about half as much to replace it,” said Bret Allen, vice president of sales with Paragon Sports. “It’s a beefed-up product. It will last 10 years at least. Our oldest turf job we have out there is the field at Oklahoma State we put in nine years ago.”

Allen was questioned about safety of players performing on artificial turf. A study issued last year by Stanford University found that college football players are 40 percent more likely to suffer a knee injury on artificial turf than on natural grass.

“Football is a dangerous sport,” Allen said. “There are always going to be injuries. But the synthetic turf out there is more consistent than natural grass. There is no unevenness or divots like you find on natural grass.”

The increased injuries found in the study occur because artificial turf grips so well. When players pivot and change direction, it increases the chances of an ACL tear or similar knee injury.

“I’m not against turf,” Hines said. “I like what I’ve heard about it, but I don’t like the timing. We’re asking every department to shore up costs. Teachers are working with less. Enrollment is declining. We’ve been asked to tighten our belt. We’re in a lawsuit with the state over funding, and we don’t know how that’s going to turn out.”

“I’m not against turf either,” Mauldin added. “But I’m like Marti. We have to shore up costs at all our schools right now. Three-quarters of a million dollars is a lot to ask for.”

“I’m a sports person,” Talley said. “But I’m for teachers first. We’re in the middle of a one-to-one program. We might have to replace these devices in a year or two. I don’t want to do anything that will hurt students in the future.”

“I don’t want to take away from something the students might need,” Hines said.

But Kilpatrick insisted the purchase would be a good investment for the district.

“Guys, we have talked about it and talked about it, and every time I hear ‘it’s not a good time,'” he said. “But never in my time here on this board has there been a time when we haven’t provided what is needed for the district, whether it’s new ACs, textbooks, iPads.

“This is good for athletes and good for the band. I think it’s good for the community. It shows people that our district provides good facilities. That’s something people look at when they move to a new community and decide where to send their kids to school.”

Stowers added that even in the face of looming budget cuts from the state, the district has managed to keep its head above water and even lower property tax rates.

But after all the discussion Stowers and Kilpatrick lost the vote.

Board president Bost said he is not opposed to the idea of installing artificial turf, but he felt there are other issues in the district that should be addressed before redoing the football field.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t vote on it again at some point in the future,” Bost added.

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