District looks to tackle new athletic field
Cleveland Heights High School athletic teams have had great and growing success in recent years, with undefeated seasons, LEL championships, and state playoffs becoming the norm in several sports. More importantly, in a district as economically and racially diverse as ours, scholastic sports are a common denominator that brings everyone together. Heights High athletics play a critical role in our efforts to educate well-rounded students with character, and we need the right facilities to continue that education and source of community pride. That’s why the district is moving ahead with plans to secure funding for a new field, among other renovations to Hosford Field at Crawford Stadium.
“Even in good weather, grass fields need a lot of rest and care, but right now our stadium field can’t handle more than five or six games a year—and those are accounted for by the home football schedule,” said Kristin Hughes, CH-UH director of athletics. “None of our teams can use the field, and yet for this limited usage, we have to pay a substantial sum to maintain this field even to its current condition. Our field doesn’t serve our students well, and its annual costs don’t serve our taxpayers well. We are committed to finding funding to renovate our stadium in a way that will allow for much more use by the students and the community, at a smaller cost. A synthetic grass or turf field is the clear choice.”
The current cost to maintain our natural grass field ranges from $25,000 to $50,000 per year. The annual maintenance costs for a synthetic grass field have been estimated to be about $5,000 per year. Resurfacing the field with synthetic turf will immediately expand potential uses. With synthetic turf, the field will immediately be available for use by other sports, such as lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, and other community teams and activities, such as cheerleading competitions, football camps, youth lacrosse clinics, and youth soccer camps and clinics to be held during the summer.
The current estimated cost of the project is $750,000. The CHHS Athletic Department is seeking a $200,000 grant from the NFL. Additional funding will be raised by booster and alumni groups. “Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley has even agreed to help us with our fundraising efforts,” stated Hughes. “Fundraising is never easy, especially right now, but we have to do something."
Plans for Hosford Field are not limited to the field but also include the ticket booths, stands and restrooms, with the goal being to give the Tigers facilities on par with the success they have shown on the field. Current thoughts also include moving the home stands to where the visitor stands are, with support spaces located under them, along with turning the west parking lot into a plaza, ideal for tailgate parties.
The district has carefully studied health, safety, and environmental factors before recommending a synthetic turf field be installed. There is little evidence that current turf technology allows for more injuries than natural grass, but just to be certain, we’ve opted for a higher grade of turf that provides more cushioning. There is some anecdotal information circulating online connecting turf and germs, but from the current literature, this seems to be no more a concern with turf than with grass.
Additionally, as part of this project, the district has committed to installing either a rain garden or a comprehensive system for filtering and containing stormwater to limit runoff. We have also opted for a sand-based infill rather than the more typical “crumb” rubber material because some concerns have been raised about the chemicals contained in crumb rubber. "We are in phase one of a grassroots effort to generate some support for this project. Without community support, we will have to continue to find other fields, off district property, to play on," stated Hughes.
[Editor's Note: To read another opinion about artificial turf fields, see Joan Spoerl's February opinion piece on the topic.]
Angee Shaker is director of communications for Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.