Turf field rejected for Wright City High School

By: 
Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

Following extensive deliberation, the Wright City R-II School District has decided against installing a new turf surface at its high school campus.

Board members and administrators discussed the matter for over an hour during their monthly meeting on Nov. 21. 

Ultimately, the board voted 4-3 against the proposal to obtain bids and determine an installation plan. 

“I do think it’s a huge added value for our kids, but that means we might have to say no to other added values for kids,” said Superintendent Dr. David Buck. “That’s something we have to consider.”

The proposal was brought forward, in part, due to the need to repair or replace the current playing surface at the high school. According to Activities Director David Evans, the condition of the field is such that it likely will need to go unused for a while to allow for regrowth. The final two football games of the fall were particularly wet in terms of weather, impacting the playing surface.

Given the increasing use of the facility, a closure would displace football and soccer games, band performances and other community events. 

“Turf would benefit the most by number of hours on it, with PE by far,” said Buck. “Band would also benefit from having the flat surface and clearer lines. Sports would also benefit, but PE and band would be the most impacted.”

The option to repair the current surface was also presented but is expected to take more routine maintenance than a turf surface would. Currently, the district pays around $20,000 a year to maintain the grass field.

While the turf would be mostly a one-time expense to be re-evaluated on a 10-year basis, it was anticipated to cost the district between $675,000 to $825,000. 

“We are fiscally very sound right now, so we have the funds for it,” said Buck. “Locally we have had record increases in new construction the past three years, although we can’t count on that to continue.”

Board members expressed concerns over pouring such a large amount of funding into one project and how well the community might support the decision.

Regardless, the board will have to decide how to facilitate a usable space for students.

“If we don’t do something now, then we’re essentially telling ourselves we’re going to deal with this the next five years,” said Board President Austin Jones, who voted in favor of installing turf. “We’re looking at five years of nursing this along.”

The five years would sustain the field until it is potentially relocated with the construction of a new high school. The board plans to bring a plan for a new school to  voters in 2023. 

That was a source of concern for several board members and administrators, who were afraid investing in a turf surface might compromise the public’s support of the new high school. 

“I’d like to see more go toward academics,” said board Vice President Alice Jensen, who was not in favor of turf. “We’ve invested a lot in athletics.”

Board members voting in favor of replacing the athletic field with turf were Austin Jones, Dave Mikus and Erin Williams. Voting against were Michael Bates, Mary Groeper, Alice Jensen and Heidi Halleman.

Buck said the unknowns about the future location of the high school makes such decisions more difficult. 

“My biggest concern is that we end up with turf at a middle school building five years after we install it,” said Buck, who added that the current high school would likely house seventh and eighth grade.

One reason the need for an upgraded playing surface has increased is that the field is getting more use, due to the recent implementation of boys and girls soccer programs.

For the time being, the district will explore options for repairing the current field surface in hopes of minimizing the amount of non-usable days.

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