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High school sports: Kankakee looking into installing FieldTurf

The idea of synthetic turf at Kankakee High School ranges from a pipe dream to a legitimate possibility, depending on whom you ask.

But the sample of FieldTurf present at Thursday’s Board of Education finance committee’s meeting definitely means the discussion is real — even if only at an exploratory stage.

FieldTurf representative Jonathan Huard, who was responsible for Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School’s installation in 2010, provided the committee with the positives of his company’s product and the possible costs, which could exceed $1.5 million.

The committee will report back to the Board of Education. Why now and how much will certainly be questions on the docket.

“We’re going through the process,” said board president Barbara Wells, who was not present Thursday but expects to hear a full report. “We’re gleaning information to make the best decisions possible.”

Any resolution is not likely to come soon. A definitive price is also difficult to nail down until survey work for the site can be completed — and even that step is not guaranteed to come to fruition if the Board decides the idea is not cost-effective.

But Huard’s presentation did provide a general idea of the project’s price tag.

Huard said basic FieldTurf costs $5 per square foot, with the football field measuring 80,000 square feet. That cost would rise depending on design choices and whether the district decides to use turf to fill the sections between the track and end zones.

Those decisions would bring the price into the $500,000 range, with separate construction costs also coming in near that mark in order to get the site ready for turf.

The combined total brings the project near the $1 million mark, but extensive drainage work prior to construction would likely be needed with the current field not tied into any drainage system.

The extra construction likely would bring the total closer to $1.25 million, but that does not factor in the cost of the civil engineering needed to first decide if the project is economically viable — with committee members stating total costs could eventually run between $1.5 and $2 million.

Bradley-Bourbonnais spent $856,000 to install its turf; however, that figure doesn’t include construction.

Former Bradley-Bourbonnais athletic director Mark Sutton praised the FieldTurf’s lack of maintenance at the time, saying saved maintenance cost would help offset the turf’s initial price tag.

As of now, any potential savings remain unclear for Kankakee.

That’s why Wells stressed proceedings, if any progress was to be made, were in the very preliminary stages.

And the sticker price did cause pause among several members of a school district that has endured multiple budget cuts in recent years, which has forced the district to make tough choices on athletic equipment.

Some committee members also expressed doubt; however, member Jess Gathing remained upbeat Friday about the possibility of FieldTurf.

“We have to start selling kids Kankakee at an early age,” he said. “Whether it’s football, basketball, drama or another sport, our kids deserve the best.”

Gathing said the field was much more than an investment in football.

“Kids in many programs would have an opportunity to play on a great field,” he said.

Currently the soccer programs play at Kankakee Junior High School but would call the new turf their home field, and the baseball and softball teams would have great opportunity for outdoor practices early in the spring season.

The discussion likely will come back to cost, however, and Gathing admitted he’s unsure at this point where the funds will come from.

“I don’t know right off hand,” he said. “When the numbers come out, we’ll have to look and see … but it’s too often things in this city get stifled because they say we don’t have the money.”

Of course, that’s why Wells stressed the process.

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