HJ - Cardinal Field Grass

Breaking a good run for Clarinda is Brandon Stogdill during a game against Mount Ayr this season at Cardinal Field. Concerns over the condition of the grass playing surface has prompted the Clarinda Community School District Board of Directors to consider the installation of new sod or artificial turf at the field for next season. The proposed improvement project at Cardinal Field would also include repairs to the track encircling the football field. (Herald-Journal photo by Joe Moore)

Cardinal Field could have a new look when the 2020-2021 school year kicks offs.

During a special meeting held Monday, Nov. 25, the Clarinda Community School District Board of Directors held initial discussions on possible improvements to the high school football field and track. The discussion focused on the installation of a new playing surface for the football field and repairs to the track.

“We know we can’t play football on that field next year with the shape it’s in,” board president Greg Jones said. “I had the pleasure of walking the sideline on the visitors’ side during a couple games this year and there was standing water. And, at some point, it becomes dangerous in terms of divots and holes.”

The board is exploring the cost involved with installing new sod or artificial turf on the football field.

“We’re not going to do seed. You’re not going to have time to do that, so basically you’re either looking at sod or an artificial surface,” board vice president Darin Sunderman said.

However, director Ann Meyer said the members of the public she had heard from are split on their views regarding the need for artificial turf on the field.

“This issue is very sensitive out there and it’s getting a lot of talk. There are some who are ‘why wouldn’t we’ and others that are ‘they better not.’ It’s that extreme,” Meyer said.

“For that reason, I think you want a more detailed look,” Superintendent Chris Bergman said.

Jones said he is not advocating for the installation of artificial turf. However, he has noticed more and more schools have moved in that direction in recent years.

“From my own investigation, I went back three years because we played 1A and 2A, and we’ve played on more turf fields than we’ve played on grass. It’s about 60-40.”

Whether the board decides on sod or artificial turf, Jones said the district needs to consider the longevity of each type of surface along with other key concerns like the drainage of the field.

“We’re in the predicament we’re in because we’ve not either maintained it to the level it should have been maintained or it’s just lost its useful life,” Jones said.

Bergman said the board needed to also remember the field is used for more than just playing football.

“We need to remember more than just football players use this field,” Bergman said. “It’s a multipurpose area for both band and football.”

Meyer said Creston recently undertook a similar project to what Clarinda is considering. Installing artificial turf and making repairs to its track cost Creston $1.2 million, according to district school board minutes, she said.

The members of the Clarinda Community School District Facility Committee previously presented rough cost estimates for either a grass or artificial turf field that were developed by Maintenance Director Craig Hill. However, Jones said the board needed actual bids to make an informed decision.

“If we’re going to do our due diligence, we need to get actual bids so we have actual stuff to consider instead of homegrown estimates,” Jones said.

Meyer asked if the project would focus strictly on the surface and track, or if it would include other improvements to Cardinal Field. The other improvements she mentioned were installing rest rooms on the visitors’ side of the stadium and creating a handicapped seating area.

Jones said those projects could be including in a larger plan to improve the stadium in the future.

Despite the time sensitive nature of the project, the board took no action Monday. Instead, the issue was tabled until its next meeting Dec. 11 so Bergman would have time to gather possible bids, research how many schools in Iowa have artificial turf for their football field and how those projects were financed.

“I think the hard part is making sure we’re comparing apples to apples,” Bergman said.

Bergman said she would also explore having some of the vendors that do improvements projects like this give a public presentation so the community is aware of what is being done and the costs involved.

“The only hesitation I have with any of this is every day we put it off is another day we don’t get something done,” Jones said.

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