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County orders report on turf fields for prep athletics

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday directed the county's architectural firm to investigate the cost and feasibility of adding artificial turf at sports fields at all four county high schools after hearing comments for and against product.

"We passed a motion to have (architect) Chad Roberson use his resources to get as much information as they could as far as the cost and upkeep and replacement of artificial turf versus the cost of doing grass correctly and doing grass all the time," County Commission Chairman Michael Edney said.

The commissioners could move this spring to authorize the artificial turf fields for high school athletics after the School Board endorsed the idea on Monday night and County Manager Steve Wyatt reported that the county has the cash to cover the first three high schools. The county could use the remaining money from the sale of Bent Creek property to Buncombe County to pay for turf at North, West and East Henderson high schools. Hendersonville would get a new surface too, Edney said, as part of the overall renovation and new construction that could start this year if the city approves zoning. Commissioners, and Edney especially, have talked about the need for a new track at HHS, which has a track so threadbare it can't be used for track meets. Edney said the new construction of the school will require a new stadium entrance anyway and he'd like to see a new ticket booth, bathrooms and other improvements incorporated into that work.

The School Board agreed on Monday night to request funding for new artificial turf football fields at all four public high schools after hearing a “turf 101” presentation from a supplier and an endorsement from a veteran athletic trainer.

Dwayne “Doc” Durham, the regular sports trainer at East Henderson High School and manager of Pardee Hospital’s sports training program in the school system, said his experience has convinced him that artificial turf is better for young athletes.
“I’ve had a 37-year career as a trainer, 34 years in Henderson County schools, and I’ve stood in the mud long enough,” Durham said. “At Montana State they did a 3-year study and concluded that turf was actually better not only in the rate of injury but the rate of recovery.”
Durham has had plenty of experience treating injuries on natural grass and artificial turf.
“We’re surrounded by turf,” he said. “It’s in Madison, Buncombe, Transylvania, and my own observation is that it is much safer.”
Among the advantage of turf is durability. High schools generally have only one field, and it’s used for varsity and Jayvee football and soccer practice and games.
“At East we went through seven games in 11 days and there was no grass left, period,” he said. “We have seen an increase in slippage, they do not have the traction. I clearly feel like this is something we need to do because I think it is a safety factor. Not only will it be a safety factor, the esthetics will be tremendous and it will give the kids a certain amount of pride in what they do.”
A sales manager and construction supervisor for Medallion Athletics, a Mooresville company that installs artificial turf, explained the makeup and construction of turf fields. They projected the cost at $650,000 to $1 million per field, which is in line with preliminary estimates county officials have made. The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to talk about turf fields during its regular meeting on Wednesday.
“These are not maintenance free,” Medallion sales manager Todd Penley told the School Board. “You don’t have to mow, apply pesticide, apply herbicide. You don’t have to stripe it. But you do have to blow debris off, pick up trash, keep it clean, pull a broom across it so all the fiber is standing up. Weekly cleaning and once-a-month grooming is basically what it comes down to.”
The turf fields are guaranteed for eight years and expected to last 10 to 12 years. Replacement cost is generally half to two-thirds the cost of the initial installation, Penley said.
The School Board voted to request funding for the new fields as long as the request did not supplant funding of higher priorities that are already in the pipeline.