School board OKs football field, $725,000 contribution

PW-S officials earmark money for artificial turf to spark fundraising for rest of $8 million Port High project
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday voted unanimously to install an artificial turf football field and invest $725,000 of public money in the first phase of a Port High outdoor athletic facilities project that otherwise is to be paid for with private donations.

After months of discussions about the improvements and whether to spend taxpayer money on outdoor athletic fields and facilities, the district is now moving ahead quickly with the project in the hope of having the football field ready for the beginning of the 2019 season.

“We sit here with the opportunity to put down sports turf by the fall season,” Supt. Michael Weber told the board. “Realistically, our kids could have sports turf by the beginning of the next school year.”

Officials, who expect to have proposals by March, said the field is estimated to cost between $650,000 and $900,000, depending on the quality of artificial turf and extras such as a foam shock pad between the gravel base and turf.

Artificial turf generally has a 10-year warranty but lasts for 15 years, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

The district will pay for most if not all of the football field turf project with $725,000 it was paid for 54 acres of land on the west side of Port Washington. 

The district purchased the land in 1969 for a future school,  but after the 2015 approval of a $49.4 million referendum that financed the construction of additional classroom space at Dunwiddie Elementary School and the $45.6 million renovation of Port Washington High School, the board decided the district no longer had a need for the property. 

If the district’s investment doesn’t cover the entire cost of the football field, the PWSSD Foundation, a non-profit organization formed to benefit the district, is expected to cover the balance. The foundation has a $100,000 pledge and about $7,000 in donations, Weber said.

An artificial turf football field, just the first step in what would be an $8 million overhaul of Port High’s outdoor athletic complex, is seen by officials as a solution to perennial problems caused by weather and a way to make a significant part of the school’s field space available to more athletes and students.

The grass field is now used primarily for football games. Football teams practice on the adjacent baseball diamonds to preserve the game field and phy-ed classes use the field only periodically during dry weather. 

An artificial turf field could be used throughout much of the year by multiple teams and phy-ed classes, officials said. Although soccer teams practice and play on grass fields at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, they could do both on the football field when their regular fields are too wet to use, they said. A decision on whether to stripe the new football field for both football and soccer has not been made.

“A new football field will probably be touched by every single kid in phy-ed classes,” Froemming told the board. “The field will have a much broader seasonal range. Our kids could have been on it today.”

Key to the project is the district’s financial contribution, which until recently board members had been cautious about committing to outdoor athletic facility improvements.

Money for the improvements was not included in the 2015 referendum in part because a survey of residents showed tepid support for the athletic field expenditures.

After the referendum, the district and PWSSD Foundation finalized plans for an $8 million overhaul of Port High’s outdoor athletic area that in addition to a new football field and eight-lane running track around it includes new home bleachers and a press box, artificial turf baseball fields and related improvements and a new concession stand and restrooms between the two fields, which would remain in essentially their present configuration west of the school.

Last year, in an effort to spark fundraising, board members earmarked $725,000 for the project but said they would only authorize the expenditure if the PWSSD Foundation had made significant fundraising progress. 

But since then, what was a two-phase project has been divided up into several parts. Now, officials say, the district’s investment of $725,000 can pay for most if not all of the key first phase of the project and help jump-start fundraising.

Jennifer Clearwater, president of the PWSSD Foundation, told the board that potential donors expect the district to contribute to the project.

“Some of the donor conversations I’m having are predicated on the use of the district’s $725,000,” she said.

Board member Aaron Paulin, who voted last year against earmarking money for the project, asked if the district would be able to pay for unforeseen maintenance problems if it spent the $725,000 on high school athletic fields before voting in favor of the contribution.

Froemming said the district has sufficient savings to pay for unexpected expenses and, in fact, plans to tap its fund balance to pay for improvements at the middle school.

On Monday, the board also voted to spend $14,000 on a land survey of the high school’s outdoor athletic area.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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