Safety hazards, inadequate drainage among many problems Grafton district needs to correct, consulting firm tells board
Deteriorating conditions in the Grafton School District’s outdoor sports facilities are creating safety hazards for athletes, inconveniencing spectators and costing money, a consulting firm told the School Board on Monday.
The assessment came during a presentation by Point of Beginning, a Stevens Point-based architectural and engineering company that recently toured playing and practice fields, bleachers, concession stands and storage buildings outside Grafton High School and John Long Middle School.
The study is part of an ongoing assessment of facilities being done by the district in preparation for a possible April 2016 referendum on upgrades, which are also being considered for school buildings, technology and other areas.
Renovating the athletic facilities could cost as much as $2 million, the study concluded.
“I’ve been on worse fields, but not much worse,” Point of Beginning’s Rich Riggs told the board. “There’s a lot of work that should be done.”
Riggs said the study — which focused on football and soccer fields and the track at the high school and baseball and softball diamonds at the middle school — uncovered widespread problems with worn and uneven playing surfaces, poor drainage and dilapidated fences.
Supt. Mel Lightner said upgrading facilities would demonstrate a commitment to excellence in Grafton public schools, especially when families have other options for educating their children.
“Grafton is not a podunk, dirt-poor country community. This is Ozaukee County,” he said.
“Our competition is Cedarburg and Mequon-Thiensville. The No. 1 reason right now to come to Grafton is our automotive program.
“This is a good school district, but we’ve got to get better.”
Among the most serious outdoor problems, according to Riggs, are those on the varsity soccer field, which has cramped sidelines, poor grading and eroded turf. Inadequate drainage frequently leaves the surface flooded and treacherous for players or unusable, he said.
Similar problems exist on the district’s other fields, the study indicated.
“The fields are lacking, not due to maintenance but use,” said Riggs, who noted that while most grass playing surfaces have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, many in the district are much older.
“They’re in poor shape and they don’t look good. There is nothing on the baseball field that I would save.”
The Point of Beginning study, which was commissioned by the board at Lightner’s request, includes several cost estimates for upgrades at the high school. Topping the list is $286,000 to $304,000 for a junior-varsity baseball field and adjoining green space, which Riggs said should be considered for new athletic fields.
Other projected upgrade costs at the high school are $150,000 to $165,000 for the varsity game-day football stadium; $122,000 to $138,500 for track-and-field facilities; $109,000 to $127,000 for the varsity soccer field; $86,000 to $98,000 for the practice soccer field; and $76,000 to $91,500 for the practice football field.
Topping the list at the middle school is $270,000 to $283,000 for the varsity baseball field, followed by $190,000 to $205,000 for each of two softball fields and $172,000 to $186,000 for youth baseball fields.
Riggs suggested the board consider installing a synthetic-turf field at the high school that could be used for football and soccer practices and games.
Undertaking many of the upgrades in the next year or two may be unrealistic, Lightner said, because the district has other needs and faces serious cost constraints, including a projected deficit of $1 million for the 2015-16 school year. Temporary repairs that cost less may have to be done for now, he added.
“Perhaps if the district goes to a referendum for building improvements, outdoor athletic improvements could be considered,” Lightner said. “Lastly, private fundraising might be an option.”
However, Lightner told the board that upgrades to the soccer field should be a high priority. Conditions there and on other playing surfaces “jeopardize the safety and well-being of our young men and women, as well as athletes from other communities,” he said.
The district is assembling a Citizens Facilities Committee that will review assessments and make recommendations to the board as it prioritizes needs and considers options for a referendum.
Board members had little comment on the study, noting that many of the problems are widely known. Finding money in the budget for repairs is another matter, they said.
“We don’t know where we’re going with this,” Lightner said. “It all goes back to the committee. The people will decide what they want to do with the facilities.”
Reports on district facilities will continue March 23 when the board receives a presentation on technology operations from Heartland Business Systems.