CASD Reviews Athletic Complex Bids
CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors reviewed bids for its high school athletic complex improvements at Monday night’s committee meetings. The board will vote at next week’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. in the Clearfield Middle School auditorium.
District Architect J. Greer Hayden of HHSDR Architects/Engineers presented the received bids for the improvements to the tennis courts, the football field and stadium complex and the soccer field. The district, according to him, would be “better serviced” if it converted the football field to an artificial turf surface.
If the district selects the lowest base bid from Grace Industries, it would cost $1.645 million to convert the football field to an AstroTurf system. However, if the district opts for the more costly FieldTurf, it would increase the cost to $1.750 million. But these figures increase to $1.843 million and $1.948 million, respectively when including their alternative bid amounts.
Hayden said if the district would maintain natural grass on both the football and soccer fields; refurbish the track, walkways and fencing and install drainage and reseed both fields, it would cost approximately $1.67 million.
When asked by board member Dr. Michael Spencer, site designer John Carley of HHSDR Architects/Engineers said the FieldTurf brand had been around longer than AstroTurf. He said it consisted of sand and rubber and described it as a “state-of-the-art” playing surface, which made it more costly.
Athletic Director Robert Gearhart concurred with Carley, indicating he’d been on many FieldTurf surfaces. He hadn’t met with any other districts’ officials who had regretted converting to this particular playing surface. “It’s the leader in the industry. It’s going to be around for a while. I’d be real surprised if we didn’t get 10 – 15 years out of it,” he said.
Hayden said the artificial surface came with an eight-year warranty. However, he’s known it to last longer but said its longevity is dependent upon the “wear and amount of use.” When asked by board President Dave Glass, he said that he’s never had any school district regret installing an artificial surface.
Rick Bunning, director of buildings and grounds, said the district spends $27,000 annually in maintenance expenses for just cleaning the field house and locker rooms that are caked with mud following football games. Bunning is currently working on calculating the total costs associated with the football and soccer fields’ maintenance.
Bunning estimated the total maintenance costs, including the figure for the aforementioned clean-up, at around $45,000 annually. However, Carley indicated it would be much lower and in the area of $10,000 annually to maintain an artificial turf surface.
In the football stadium improvements, Hayden said the track and field events would be refurbished, and the track would need relined every three to five years. He said the stadium’s inside and outside fences would be replaced, and additional gates would be added for the athletes and band members.
Hayden said if the district converts the current football field into a multi-purpose field, it would eliminate costs associated with soccer field improvements, such as a sound system and other electrical-related work. He also suggested deferring improvements to the stadium’s bleachers until more funding became available.
For the time being, he suggested the board focus on improvements to the tennis courts and football field. For tennis, he said the bids ranged from the lowest at $154,711 to the highest at $198,000 to repair the current six courts, while they came in $329,300 and $330,120, respectively, to construct four new courts.
Afterward Gearhart presented information packets about the usage of both the high school’s football field and gymnasium. This past fall, he said the district had 303 students who were competing in fall sports and more than 100 students in the band program.
According to him, the school’s biggest problem is not having enough or adequate field space to support the football and soccer programs as well as the band. Further he said the soccer program currently has a game and practice field to support four teams.
He said the teams cannot practice on the game field, as it’s only in “fair condition” on its “best days.” In addition, it’s used numerous times weekly for games, which quickly deteriorate it. He said as a result, the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs share one practice field, while the junior high teams are bused to the Clearfield Soccer Association facilities.
Even after the high school expansion and renovation, Gearhart said the program – seventh through twelfth – would still be relying on the CSA facilities. He said the shuttle bus posed a $935 expense to the district this past year.
“A multi-purpose stadium with an artificial turf surface would create a situation in which everyone’s needs would be met without leaving the high school campus. And, all sports-related practices could begin directly after the school day,” he said.
Gearhart said the football field, track and stadium complex have reached “deplorable” conditions and present numerous safety concerns from field conditions to walkways and bleachers. He said the district currently buses seventh and eighth graders to the high school at $55 per day, which has cost the district $2,823.27 this year.
According to him, a multi-purpose stadium has “numerous and far-reaching” benefits, including meeting the needs for the football, soccer and track programs. In addition, it would present spring practice opportunities to the baseball and softball teams and allow the return of the Clearfield County Band Show.
He said the multi-purpose field would be utilized daily from 8 a.m. starting with physical education classes to 9 p.m. for athletic practices. He noted it would create potential for Clearfield to host playoff or all-star athletic events and to invite in other community groups.
“It would definitely be well-used,” Gearhart said. “We had a mild winter this year. Someone could have been using it almost every day.”
Gearhart also favored the proposed 1,000-spectator capacity gym that’s included in the high school renovation and expansion project. This past year, he said 230 students competed in winter sports, and he’s concerned about not having adequate gymnasium space for the school’s basketball and cheerleading programs and physical education classes.
He said the boys’ basketball program has four, separate teams, in addition to a fifth and sixth grade group and a third and fourth grade group. The girls’ program has three, separate teams, as does the cheerleading program, which also has a competition squad. He said on any given day this past winter the school could have had 12 different groups requesting to utilize the district’s gymnasiums.
“For some groups, it becomes difficult and inconvenient and even more difficult if not impossible whenever there’s a home wrestling match,” he said. “Due to their low-standing of importance ranking, our elementary basketball players would practice until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. most nights because of the lacking gym space.”
Gearhart said the district currently has three-and-a-half gymnasiums, and under the proposed renovation, it stands to lose the auxiliary gymnasium. He said by building a larger gymnasium similar to Bald Eagle Area or Bellefonte, the district would gain one-half of a gymnasium, allowing it to meet a number of different needs, including those outside of athletics.
He said the winter shuttle bus would be eliminated for basketball and wrestling, which cost the district $2,126.54 this past year.
According to him, students who are participating in school activities, such as sports, band, school plays, etc. perform better academically. In the 10th through 12th grades at the high school, he said students who don’t participate in school activities maintained an 80.9 percent cumulative grade point average. In contrast students who participated in two or more activities achieved an 88.3 percent.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto mentioned that a community member had recently questioned Gearhart’s findings. Otto said he was insulted by that community member, as Gearhart worked hard to provide valid information to the district.
“I think it’s sad that our highest-achieving group is only maintaining an 88.3 percent. That really scares me. It tells me that our focus isn’t where it should be,” said board member Jennifer Wallace.
Hayden wants the district to initiate the athletic complex improvements this May with completion in August.