The Falmouth Public Schools’ Fields Task Force and Planning Committee recommended to the school committee recently that a multipurpose artificial turf athletic field be built on the Falmouth High School campus.
The committee was charged by Town Meeting last April to research both a natural grass and an artificial turf field in their investigation to build a field on campus and move the Falmouth High School football program from Guv Fuller Field.
A community survey on the topic showed that an overwhelming number of the 539 responses, 88.7 percent, favored having a multipurpose field at the high school and a majority, 62.8 percent of 527 responses, preferred artificial turf over a grass field, said Superintendent of Schools Nancy R. Taylor, who reviewed the survey at Tuesday’s school committee meeting.
David Young, vice president, and Scott W. Langren, senior project manager, with CDM Smith presented the two design options and costs. It was the same presentation they gave at the last community field forum.
The presentation gave the total cost of $3.4 million for two natural grass fields and $3.1 million for an artificial turf field. The comparison looked at two grass fields because they wanted to make an apples-to-apples comparison both in cost and use of the fields, R. Patrick Murphy, director of finance and facilities, said. The amount of play time on an artificial turf compared to on grass is 3:1. If the grass option is chosen, another field would need to be developed on the campus and the school would need to continue to use Guv Fuller Field to get the same amount of play time an artificial turf field would offer.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Sonia A. Tellier said members of the field committee group visited three artificial turf high school fields in Barnstable, Marshfield and New Bedford.
School committee member William S. Rider asked about these fields’ ages and wear and tear so far. Artificial turf fields have a life cycle of about eight to 10 years.
Barnstable High School’s field was 8 years old and had about two to four more years of use before it would need to be replaced, Ms. Tellier said. Marshfield High School has had their field for about four years. New Bedford was on its second artificial turf field, the first having lasted for 12 years.
School committee member Andrea L. Thorrold asked if the field committee had visited any grass fields. Ms. Tellier said that she had reached out to high schools with grass fields but the schools either did not respond or they did not invite the group to see the fields because they were not in good shape given the time of year.
Falmouth Public Schools Athletic Director Kathleen Burke said that Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School has a grass field but there are four staff members dedicated to its maintenance. The field had overuse issues last year so the school’s junior varsity football team asked to play some games at Guv Fuller Field.
Falmouth High School sophomore Philip Gessen, who was representing the student advisory board at the meeting and who is also on the soccer team, said that students supported an artificial turf field.
Chairman of the recreation committee Robert Brown also voiced his committee’s support for a multipurpose artificial turf field at the high school and moving the football program from Guv Fuller Field. With the senior center planned at the recreation center site, the recreation committee wants to use the field space for a new accessible playground and for its own programs.
“If the football program remains at Gus Canty, we’re going to be in a real crunch,” Mr. Brown said.
School committee chairman Kelly A. Welch asked if building an artificial turf field at the high school would help meet the needs outlined by the Gale Associates report which stated, based on use, that the town required three additional artificial turf fields or nine grass fields. Field committee members said that the new field would contribute to this need. School use was included in that report.
The presented field plan did not include locker rooms but Mr. Murphy said that funds to build these at the new field site could come out of the operational budget and be built over a summer. The field design includes bleachers, a press box with an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant lift, fencing, a concession and restroom building and field lights.
Ms. Thorrold asked about the environmental impact of replacement and disposal of the field material. Mr. Landgren said the material could be completely recycled if specified. Ms. Thorrold also asked about health impacts that any treatments or cleaning may have.
Mr. Landgren said some owners elect to do field washes with soaps or other chemicals but that it is not required. The frequent rain seen in this area of the country would suffice in keeping the surface clean.
Falmouth High School head field hockey coach Courtney Lima, who is also on the field committee, spoke about the competitive edge for students who are accustomed to playing on an artificial turf field.