Booster clubs get OK to campaign for artificial turf fields

26 July 2017

The two West Fargo High School booster clubs can begin raising money to add artificial turf to football fields at West Fargo High School and West Fargo Sheyenne High School worth an estimated $2.6 million.

The School Board voted 4-1 to give the two booster clubs the green light to begin a capital campaign for about two thirds of the cost, or $1.61 million. School Board Member Allan Skramstad voted against the plan, saying he thought more research should be done on the benefits of turf or grass fields. The district will contribute about one third of the total cost, or $984,600, which includes about $118,000 in engineering costs Superintendent David Flowers said Monday.

MBN Engineering estimated a cost of $1.21 million for low-grade turf to $1.35 million for high-grade turf at West Fargo and $1.22 million for low-grade turf to $1.36 million for high-grade turf at Sheyenne with engineering and contingency included.

The West Fargo Packer Backers booster club and the Sheyenne booster club began meeting with the school district to consider a joint capital campaign about two months ago, Sheyenne booster club co-president Darrin Galde said Friday, July 21.

Galde made it clear that talks are still only preliminary from his point of view as well, but he hopes new turfs are playable by the fall of 2018.

"The groups seem very motivated, both booster groups seem very excited about the opportunity," West Fargo activities director Jay DeCann said Monday.

Fundraising would also need to happen fast so that estimates remain relatively unchanged. Unlike most construction items, turf seems to be going down in price over time, DeCann said at Monday's meeting. DeCann said the maintenance on turf is also considerably lower than what is needed on grass.

The booster clubs would have to agree to equal contributions or joint asks for corporate sponsorships and make sure fundraisers and donors would know it's a joint effort. No turf would be bought if funds aren't raised for both schools and a committee from each club would be formed to oversee the fundraising. Flowers said it was important for both schools to move forward with turf at the same time.

"If they are willing to put the time in and raise the money, this is the time to do it," Board Member Patti Stedman said. "This is a rare opportunity."

The school board memo said the turf would make the fields more durable to avoid damage due to weather, would make the fields more usable for more contests and would make the spaces versatile for football, soccer and other spring sports. Fargo Shanley and Moorhead High Schools have artificial turf fields in the metro area among several other schools in North Dakota.

"You just can't get outside early enough," Galde said. "We need green space that's not frozen."

West Fargo Sheyenne activities director Ross Richards declined to comment on Friday about the campaign. A call for West Fargo Packer Backer president Patrick Walker was not immediately returned.

The school district's planning and development committee, which supports the project, recommended if naming rights were to be sold for one of the fields that the donor give 25 percent of the project cost. Galde said naming rights would be decided by the school district.

"Honestly, it's a joint effort that's going to benefit both schools," Galde said. "We and the school district, we want to improve the facilities on both campuses."

Sheyenne, which will be going into its fourth varsity football season, second boys soccer varsity season and third girls soccer varsity season next school year, couldn't install this type of turf right away because the costs proved too much for one time during the stadium's construction, Galde said.

New turf would allow the school's soccer teams to play on their own campus, Galde said, rather than both teams sharing the Lodoen Center soccer field. Playing on their own campuses, Galde said, would likely improve participation by student-athletes as well as fan turnout because of the proximity to the school.

Galde added that new turf would benefit the spring sports like baseball, softball and track and field because baseball and softball could start practicing out in that grass sooner coming out of winter instead of practicing inside longer waiting for ground to thaw. Track and field teams would also have better surface to practice and warm-up on.

Galde said the key will be finding dollars in the community and isn't opposed to seeking more funds from current boosters or reaching out to other possible community businesses and boosters. He's confident the money goal currently is obtainable.

"Having a joint effort, we're one community in the district," Galde said of Sheyenne and West Fargo. "It's something I think the community can get behind."