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Like a grand play that looked better in the huddle than on the field, the idea of replacing grass with artificial turf at county football fields went bust before it could get started.
An artificial turf bid that came in substantially under projection for the county's new Athletics and Activities Center had sparked discussion of whether the time is right for fake grass at the county's four high school football fields. No it is not, commissioners said today as they waved off the idea.
Commissioners Charlie Messer and Michael Edney said during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners that schools had expressed no interest in the idea, which Edney had pitched as a way to reduce maintenance costs and make the fields more useful for practice and games.
The Board of Commissioners authorized spending $515,000 for artificial turf, lighting, fencing and other improvements at the county's new Athletic and Activities Center, cutting out a staff suggestion to enlarge the soccer field for $120,000 more.
The bid for the turf itself, $321,000, came in well under than the county's projection of about $500,000.
Three members of the board voted last year to move ahead with the improvement after the county bought the old Hendersonville Christian School property.
"We budgeted the money for Faith Christian School," chairman Charlie Messer said. "I'm for it."
The low bid for the turf inspired county officials to ask the School Board and the schools administrators whether the four county high schools want to switch from grass to an artificial surface. Supporters of the idea say the fields can be used virtually full-time. Schools would save money on watering, mowing and other maintenance. Teams could practice on the same field where they play their games.
Edney has been the most vocal advocate for the change. He said Hendersonville High School has the most urgent need. Because it's landlocked, HHS has no extra room for fields. Varsity and jayvee players walk several blocks on Ninth Avenue to Hendersonville Middle School to practice.
"To go forward I would say the School Board would need to be on board not to say this is a priority above all but to at least say this is a golden opportunity we need to take advantage of," Edney said. He said he had not heard whether schools would like to see the county make that investment. "I'm told we're supposed to hear from Baz (School Board chairman Ervin Bazzle)," Edney said.
"Artificial turf gives you more opportunity for football, soccer, marching bands to have better practice facilities that don't take away from the turf (quality) and don't take away game opportunities," he said. "The other schools have the same issue as far as practice (in having to stay off the football field) but it's not as pronounced as Hendersonville."
Messer said he would defer to the schools' desires.
"I asked the schools a week and a half ago about is turf at the schools on their top 5 priority," he said. If it's not, "that would probably go by the wayside even though we got some good prices."
Fall by the wayside it did, when commissioners said schools had reported no interest in spending several hundred thousand for each field.
The low bid for the county Athletic and Activity Center work was submitted by Medallion Athletic Products of Mooresville. Besides $321,200 for the turf, the proposed budget for the A&A field work included $90,000 for lighting, $13,500 for turf upgrade, $26,500 for netting between the field and South Grove Street, $63,350 for contingency and $121,000 in available funding for a larger field, County Engineer Marcus Jones said in a memo. The board approved the turf without the $120,000 add-on.