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Artificial TurfThe Rochester City School District school board will vote this week on spending $5.4 million on installing artificial turf and making other athletic field improvements at the Franklin and Wilson Foundation campuses. Two more unidentified schools are in the pipeline. East High School’s artificial turf, which is costing $1.8 million and funded through the Facilities Modernization Plan is already under construction.

There are a lot of questions about this expenditure. But one of them should not be about priorities. Yes, many city children are failing academically, but does that mean they can’t have nice things? A singular focus on academics led to the decimation of art, music and physical education in the district. This focus even led to the Common Core and intense focus on testing. City children deserve the same amenities and cultural enrichment as their suburban peers.

Now that we got that out of the away, let’s talk about other issues with this proposal. There’s a giant lack of transparency. When I saw the item on the board agenda, the district refused to make the athletic director available for an interview and had precious few details. That’s unacceptable when millions of dollars are at stake.

Here’s what I want to know:

1. How will football participation be increased? Assuming football programs would be a primary user of artificial turf, the district should spell out how it’s going to boost participation.

Former NFL player Roland Williams was paid $34,000 by the district to assess the program. He found it’s in “dire straits.” Field condition is only part of the problem. Williams found a lack of interest and undeveloped coaches. Academic eligibility remains a big issue. Williams also suggested consolidating into four teams, which begs of the question of whether five fields are needed. More on that later.

2. What about other sports? I’m assuming the district wants other sports to use the fields. But there are few soccer and lacrosse teams in city schools. There are four boys soccer teams and two girls teams. There are no boys or girls lacrosse teams. Is there a plan to create more teams and increase participation?

Are baseball and softball fields also getting artificial turf? The specifics and cost-breakdown of these planned upgrades have not been spelled out.

3. Do you need five fields? The district would have artificial turf at East, Wilson Foundation, Franklin and two unidentified schools that would be approved at a later date.

Those two additional schools should be identified. Even more importantly, the district should release an analysis of the field use and schedules. Something like that should exist, given the magnitude of this expenditure.

One of the fields is proposed at Wilson Foundation, which doesn’t even have a high school large enough to support a football team. This suggests the district is already going to be in field-sharing mode. To what extent has the district explored field-sharing?

The district would like to host community leagues and Section V events. Are there any commitments for these organizations to use the new fields? Is there demand?

The district is installing lights at the new fields. We don’t know the cost breakout, but in Penfield, stadium lights exceeded $1 million. Are there going to be a lot of night games to justify the lights?

Furthermore, there’s a great publicly-owned artificial turf field that could really use the rent money: Sahlen’s Stadium.

4. What’s the real cost to the district? The district maintains the state will reimburse 98 percent of the cost. Those are still taxpayer dollars. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. The district could use these funds on other construction projects, so it’s not a use-it or lose-it scenario.

The district should provide a cost-benefit analysis. We don’t have the details on the type of turf the district is installing and the average annual maintenance. We also don’t know what the district spends on maintaining its grass fields. We should also be told how many events get canceled because of grass field condition.

The only thing we know is the district says it will save $60,000 a year in renting other fields.

We generally know artificial turf fields cost less to maintain, but they also have to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. It’s not clear if the state would pay for the replacement, too. Artificial turf is more expensive in the beginning and over time according to this university analysis and this sports maintenance company.

Perhaps spending extra money on artificial turf and athletic field upgrades is okay, but we need a lot more information to make that judgment.


Links of the Day:


– Safe to listen to Bon Jovi again? He reportedly would keep the Bills in Buffalo.

– Women are now shut out of delivering homilies in the Catholic Diocese of Rochester.

– Sad and maddening tale of a Western New York doctor who is in prison and his two young friends who died of heroin overdoses.

– “This child, and tens of thousands like her, are forcing this country to confront a moral dilemma…”

– San Francisco may drop the speed limit to 20 miles per hour. Don’t be surprised if this talk comes up in Rochester.

– Check out the average weekly wage in every county in the U.S. with this interactive map.


Tweet of the Day:


13 Responses to 4 Questions About Artificial Turf in RCSD

  1. July 20, 2014 at 9:56 pm Andrew Zibuck responds:

    1. Why does participation need to increase to make this worthwhile?

    2 I didn’t know, but I’m stunned there are not more soccer and lax programs in the city. Sounds like a lack of grassroots support and, (cough), volunteers.

    3. Five fields sounds like overkill. They might be better off making a turf baseball field that would (trust me) be in high demand if they rented it out.

    4. “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.” Disagree. If the state is giving it, take it. That type of altruism is why David Gantt is one of the worst politicians anywhere, ever. Sure, maybe it’s pork and unnecessary, but if Albany is throwing money around, um, CATCH IT! I’m not even joking. It does sound silly and wasteful, but unless you could re-allocate the funds within the district (good luck), take what’s given.

    I’m also dubious of the 10-15 year lifespan of artificial turf. I’d like to see proof of that, with record of how much use it got.

    • AZ- it’s the “take it if it’s being given” attitude that is causing the state to go broke!!
      Let’s see, if it wasn’t taken then the state would have that much left to do something that was more vital, like maybe fix a bridge. And if it wasn’t taken, then there wouldn’t be a need to raise taxes so much. And if taxes weren’t raised, maybe people wouldn’t leave the state.
      The `give me; give me; give me’ attitude is selfish and irresponsible.
      Albany isn’t throwing money around – Albany is reaching in everyone’s pocket and taking some and then giving it to someone else. We may be getting money that came from `somebody else’, but somebody else is getting money from you. I’m sure there’s a neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s spending your money right now on something they wouldn’t buy for themselves.

      • July 21, 2014 at 9:54 pm Andrew Zibuck responds:

        There’s that altruism I spoke of. You are nailing it but you don’t even realize it. Someone else. will. spend. the. money. And just how is the “take it…” attitude causing the state to go broke? Again, the state is going to spend the money. If we refuse it, it’s not going to be put to any good use, it’ll just go to turf fields in Syracuse or, AGAIN, Buffalo. Your attitude is how we ended up with a cramped, homely, half-assed arena.

        • Your “if we don’t take it some one else will” attitude is like saying, “the clerk walked away and didn’t close the cash register. If I don’t take the money someone else will.”

          Let’s try to assume we have some ethics. The only reason people act like that is because we preach that it will happen.

          Let’s try some restraint. Just because there is food at a buffet doesn’t mean we have to eat it all.

    • July 21, 2014 at 8:43 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Regarding participation, why would we build fields for little use?

      • AZ – The analogy is like a looter going by a broken window….. greed is just greed. You hate to admit it, but it’s plain and simple greed.

  2. July 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm Andrew Zibuck responds:

    In a few Google searches, the criticism’s of artificial turf point to Fresenberg’s study, or were funded by (natural grass) turf farms. Manufacturers may recommend replacement, and clients like NFL teams may conform, but I’d guess community/school fields will last 25 years virtually un-maintained.

  3. July 20, 2014 at 10:15 pm RaChaCha responds:

    “…the district refused to make the athletic director available…”
    Mike Wallace mode…ACTIVATE!

  4. July 21, 2014 at 9:17 am Culver responds:

    “I didn’t know, but I’m stunned there are not more soccer and lax programs in the city. Sounds like a lack of grassroots support and, (cough), volunteers.”
    I’d say the main problem is there’s not a lot of (cough) money for lacrosse programs. I’m kind of surprised that they’re trying to build any turf fields, lacrosse and field hockey are the main sports I think of for turf because of the early spring water issues in Western NY. I played lax at Geneseo through 2008 and they have been trying to build a turf field since my freshman year, I believe they recently broke ground.

  5. July 21, 2014 at 11:27 am theodore kumlander responds:

    For 20 years I set up and painted the lines and numbers on the football field at Edison Tech. For Saturday games. I wish to God they had artificial turf. But the RCSD Football program benefits a small part of the student population. The field is used 8 times by Edison and Wilson used the field and sometimes section 5 I could never understand why they spent so much money on a field that was used so little. The Saturday games were always well attended, and the students involved got a lot out of the program.

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