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Turf wars ahead?

A petition drive is underway to gauge community interest for installing synthetic turf at the large athletic fields at all five Fayette high schools.

Supporters are hoping to collect 5,000 signatures in a bid to have the estimated $3.2 million cost added to the next education sales tax program proposed by the school board, said organizer Sally Herman, a parent of two lacrosse players at McIntosh High.

The final decision on the matter rests with the Fayette County Board of Education, which is currently faced with a shortfall in the upcoming budget year of more than $6 million across the system.

School officials, Herman noted, are concerned that the project could rankle enough voters to doom the ESPLOST, which depends on the approval of county voters. The goal is to present the signatures to the school board at its Feb. 13 meeting.

Herman sees a variety of benefits to the fields, even for residents who don’t have children in high school athletics. The turf fields would help boost property values and keep Fayette County an attractive place for those moving to metro Atlanta, as other high schools in metro Atlanta have gone to artificial turf, Herman said.

Coweta County is also slated to add artificial turf to its three high school stadiums, also funded by an ESPLOST, she noted. Cobb, Forsyth, Fulton and Gwinnett high schools with turf fields had theirs funded by an ESPLOST, Herman said.

“It is imperative that Fayette County gets these turf fields to continue to be competitive with our neighbor to the west and our neighbors to the north,” Herman said.

The turf fields would only account for about 4 percent of the ESPLOST, with the rest going towards academics, Herman noted.

There was consideration given to raising the money privately, but that plan was set aside over concerns it wouldn’t be able to meet the $3.2 million goal, Herman said.

The chief athletic benefit of the fields will enable more practice and game time, as they drain quickly after (and during) a rainstorm when grass fields would be too muddy to play on, Herman said. Projections are for field use to increase from about 10,000 hours a year to 28,400, Herman said.

That’s a pretty significant benefit considering that at McIntosh during the rainy spring season, some JV games have not been rescheduled because there isn’t enough field time available, Herman said.

The additional field time would also be helpful for local recreation programs, she added.

While each field will cost about $600,000 to install, they will only cost about $7,000 a year to maintain, compared to $28,500 a year for a grass field, Herman said.

Broken down over 10 years, including installation, the total cost for a grass field is $480,000 and the total cost for a synthetic turf field is $670,000, she noted.

Volunteers have been around the county seeking signatures, but the effort is challenging because of the holidays and also a lack of a centralized location to approach a large number of people, Herman said.

“We are not able, obviously, to get ahold of everybody for this petition,” Herman said. “We’d love to but it’s just not possible.”

In addition to having volunteers all over the county seeking signatures for petitions, the effort also has a page on Facebook where residents are encouraged to post their comments about the concept whether they are for or against the project.

“We want to hear the naysayers too,” Herman said. “... If people can let us know what they’re thinking, that’s going to answer our questions.”

The Facebook page can be found by typing the following phrase in the search field: “Turf fields for Fayette County georgia high schools.”



Again, turf fields over the length of 10 years cost LESS than maintaining natural turf. There is even the ability to generate revenue by hosting clinics, camps and tournaments on the high school fields. It's not just spending money, it's saving money (mind you, over 10 years, but it IS SAVING money).

Note: Personnel costs are NOT covered by ESPLOST funds. ESPLOST funds are ONLY for improvements to facilities, technology, facilities, buses, etc.

Note: I have zero personal benefit. My kids will have graduated by the time the turf fields are installed.

Veritas's picture

No savings on turf .... Higher over all cost.,.Thought you might have some intelligence but obviously .. I over estimated your conitive abilities....

            It is a myth that synthetic fields require less maintenance than natural turfgrass fields or to say that artificial turf fields are maintenance free. Synthetic fields require 1) additional infill, 2) irrigation because of unacceptably high temperatures on warm-sunny days, 3) chemical disinfectants, 4) sprays to reduce static cling and odors, 5) drainage repair and maintenance, 6) erasing and repainting temporary lines, and 7) removing organic matter accumulation. In a recent presentation by the Michigan State University, Certified Sports Turf Manager, she cited that the typical annual maintenance costs of her artificial turf fields ranged from $13,720-$39,220, while the typical annual maintenance costs of her natural turf fields had a similar range of $8,133-$48,960 (1).

Long-term costs
            Long-term costs are less with natural turf fields compared to synthetic turf fields. Artificial fields need replacing every 8-10 years, whereas a natural turf field does not need as frequent renovation and can be renovated at a much reduced price compared to an artificial field. In a 16-year scenario, Fresenburg came up with an annual average cost for each field type as follows: the natural soil-based field, $33,522; the sand-cap grass field, $49,318; the basic synthetic field, $65,846; and the premium synthetic field, $109,013 (2).

Disposal costs
            When artificial turf (in-fill systems) needs renovating every 8-10 years, there is a hidden cost of disposal. Because the field is filled and top-dressed with a crumb rubber material (typically made from ground automobile tires), the material may require special disposal. Disposal costs are estimated at $130,000 plus transportation and landfill charges (3).

ginga1414's picture

Is this more of Smith and Smola's rational behind closed door thinking?

G35 Dude's picture

I think this is one area that Clayton County is ahead of us. They have 2 very nice stadiums that the high schools share. Using the $480,000 figure that is quoted here for upkeep on a grass stadium that is a savings of over $1.4 mil. And at $670,000 thats a savings of over $2 mil. How many teachers jobs would that save?

some of them are atrocious.

We can't just stop spending money on our schools. It will hurt everyone.

Schools need to cut back on spending. It will hurt no one but the bloated administration.

Just vote. Citizens have given their lives for that right. Stop spending money we do not have. myself

A number of cash strapped school districts have sold naming rights to everything from Football Stadiums to Auditoriums to Libraries in order to raise money. Rather than a new tax, maybe the districts should consider the idea of selling the naming rights to these stadiums in order to raise money for the new turf (as well as other necessary improvements)

kcchiefandy's picture

...raise prices for the events that use these fields and use those proceeds?

Who says the schools even want this? So far I haven't seen anyone who actually represents the schools give an opinion. If Herman's group has a principle(s) or a group of coaches behind them; wouldn't the article or Sally have mentioned it?

I went to the facebook page. So far, it only has 33 followers and following a facebook page does not imply support.

FYI - There are plenty of coaches/principals that are behind this push for turf fields. Probably not a wise choice for them to jump into this since they'll hear grief from people no matter their position.

Any Principal worth his/her salt should be able to handle"grief" or "glory", whatever citizens wish to dish out--to do otherwise or to do nothing speaks ill of their comittment, whatever it may be.

opusman's picture

According to your Facebook only 4 of 5 school reps and Bearden showed to your discussion. Then the Turf Facebook page has a massive 33 followers..

"Invincibility lies in the defense. The possibility of victory in the attack."

Seriously, School enrollment is down, Budget has to be cut by Board of Education by 6 million dollars and some moron thinks we need astro turf? Unemployment is at a high so let's pass another tax that citizen can't afford. Astro turf is NOT a Priority and it in no way will help property values but good try Mr. Herman.

This is an excerpt from an email that I received from Mr. Jimmy Dorsey, AD for McEachern High School

Ms. Herman,

Thanks for your email and I will try my best to help you out. As Chris told you, we took the "Plunge" and installed (2) Sprinturf fields eight years ago and they are still going strong. Everyone here @ McEachern thinks that may have been the smartest decision in terms of serving our school community anyone here has ever made. Our fields have performed without event and in eight years we have not canceled a single game or contest that was scheduled for those surfaces. The amount of usage has gone from 12-15 events a year on natural grass to a unlimited amount of events throughout the year. Everything from Physical Education classes, ROTC , Band and Athletics to include Graduation has been performed on our fields.

We did a study eight years ago to try and track what we were spending on the maintenance annually on our natural grass fields which indicated it was in the $85,000 mark. This included the following:
Sod, fertilization, weed control, water, sprinkler maintenance, mowing and mower repair and purchases, painting of fields for events and the purchase of that equipment and supplies, man power cost associated with the fore mentioned. One of the most difficult things to put a price on was the increased playability of the fields compared to the limited use we allowed before we had turf as well as the impact on cancellations of both games and practices.

Another by product of having turf we never even took into consideration is the were and tear of our practice and game uniforms compared to playing on natural grass. They now last as much as 2-3 times longer because they do not get exposed to dirt! This also carries into the field houses/locker rooms in terms of cleanliness.

We have not had any issues with staff infections or MRSA. We have not noticed any increases in any heat related problems that we can attribute to the turf. Yes it is a little hotter than natural grass but it does not hold moisture which lowers the humidity which results in lower humi-temp readings.

Our maintenance cost have been basically zero over this 8 year period. We run a brush device across our fields 2-3 times a year but that's about it. The brush device is included with the field and is pulled behind a golf cart or gator.

Good luck with your campaign and let me know if I can answer any specific questions. I feel like I have a pretty good knowledge about this as I also served on the committee that chose the vendor for our county as part of our latest SPLOST program that installed these fields in all of our Cobb System schools.

Much success,

Jim Dorsey
Athletic Director
McEachern High School
2400 New Macland Rd
Powder Springs, Ga 30127

Dondol's picture

All you want to, wrong time, not gonna happen, people are broke and are not going to vote in another TAX! I don't care what kind of Tax it is, its not gonna float.
Enrollment is down and people are not moving in our county right now and this sure isn't going to draw them in, but hey Good try. By the way, Went by McIntosh today and the field looks GREAT, nice and green and Soft, like Grass should be. Ready for the upcoming Season. GO CHIEFS!

Hey, this lady has admitted that she is in the turf business! Should be end of story---nice attack, wrong hill!

but I am not in the turf business -- never have been and never will. There are many reasons to be "for" or "against" turf fields. I am pursuing this because I see the benefits to our community (not only schools) outweighing the negatives.

kcchiefandy's picture

...maybe we can pass another SPLOST and put turf on the new bypasses?

suggarfoot's picture

I like it!

Veritas's picture

"Dorsey, who also helped manage the turf installation at McEachern, said the use of artificial turf could save each school thousands of dollars per year. A three-year investigation revealed that McEachern was paying about $60,000 per year to maintain real grass fields Dorsey said ."
From athletics

But in his letter 85,000 . 

Which is it? Accuracy matters if your going to try and take money from the classroom to Keep up with the Jones's.
and you do know his field was paid for by an endowment
"McEachern spent $1.2 million, funded by a private endowment, to put down artificial turf in its stadium and a practice field"
-Cobb school system defends new turf at schools. AJC-

Maybe you should try that route.

Busy Bee's picture

As a native of Cobb County who graduated from one of McEachern's rival high schools, I've always known that McEachern was an odd hybrid of public and private school with its own endowment. The campus is unlike any public school you've ever seen. It resembles a college campus rather than your typical suburban h.s., and in fact it was originally named the 7th District Agricultural and Mechanical School. It eventually became part of the Cobb County school system, but maintained its endowment from the founder, who also founded Life of Georgia insurance co. I've never been sure how the endowment works, not sure if some of the money goes to fund the Cobb County BOE, or if it is strictly used for McEachern. But at my high school, which was a big division rival, we always noticed the disparity in the quality of the two schools' athletic complexes. So, of all the schools in Cobb County, I am not in the least surprised that McEachern can afford turf fields.

Thanks! I'm assuming that there have been no injuries to players due to 'turf'.

Studies have shown that there is not a higher risk for injuries on synthetic turf fields vs. natural grass fields. It's the sport being played, not the field itself.

In addition, turf fields actually provide a more consistent surface to play on -- grass fields tend to get hard in the areas with the most playing time (down the center) while the sides stay "soft". Synthetic turf fields provide an even surface every time you play, during all types of weather (which cannot be said for natural turf).

kcchiefandy's picture

I certainly hope he wasn't an English teacher! There's enough spelling and grammatic errors to fail this assignment! Let's hope he was a P.E. teacher.

[quote] Artificial turf fields are hotter than natural turf fields. Here in Georgia there is already high risk for heat exhaustion/heat stroke during August football practice, even without increasing the on field temperature with artificial turf
Artificial turf can increase risk of knee, foot, and ankle injuries in athletes.[/quote]

Is the monetary saving more important than the safety of our students? Why are some citizens ignoring the above?

Prevention of those incidents rests on the shoulders of Coaches and others who make decisions about practicing, making sure if they err, it's on the side of safety. Turf should NOT be a deciding factor.

Thanks for your input. What about the injuries to students? Has a study been done about the affect of astro turf on young men and women? Just asking'. What do the coaches and parents at schools that have 'turf' say? (Actually, this should be a mute discussion - when the BOE is considering cutting teacher pay, etc.)

Thank you. I hope that the persons responsible for making an investment in 'turf' keep abreast of the current research and speak with the coaches of the schools that have 'turf'. Honestly - I feel that our pay for teachers need to be considered first before we invest in improving the football fields at this time. Just my opinion.

[quote=Davids mom]Honestly - I feel that our pay for teachers need to be considered first before we invest in improving the football fields at this time.quote]

Correct David's Mom. Teachers are over-paid for what they do and their pay and benefits needs to be lowered to reasonable levels in order to pay for more things that actually benefit the children.

Veritas's picture

Grizz such a waste of human flesh you are... And pray tell what great contribution to society do you provide? Without those you disdain you may have actually achieved your great aspirations of human speed bump extraordinar

In my opinion - your thought is one of the reasons that the state of Georgia is 48 in academic achievement. One of the reasons Fayette County is favored as a place to call home - is because of the outstanding teachers in Fayette County - WHO ARE UNDERPAID. I thank them for their service above and beyond the call of duty. I am grateful that you and those who think like you are in a minority not only in Fayette County but in the country. You do not represent the conservative thought - which does not include 'hate'. Conservatives are Americans who have a vision for this country that is different that the progressive thought - but all Americans want what is best for this country. You continue to denigrate. So be it.

[quote=Davids mom]In my opinion - your thought is one of the reasons that the state of Georgia is 48 in academic achievement.[/quote]

So in your "opinion", my personal thought is a reason that government teachers have failed at their job of educating our children. Wow - you really are out there, aren't you David's Mom? Government teachers are overpaid and they have failed to do their job. They have tried to game the system by cheating and changing the answers on test scores to make themselves look better, but that didn't work now - did it? It only hurt the children that they failed to teach to begin with. Throwing more money at bad teachers is not going to improve the situation. You get rid of the teachers, the teachers unions, and government run schools altogether and let private industry take over.


Yeah!!! I want to work at the private school that only caters to kids with IQs over 120!!! What do you suppose that private school will be called? Mensa wannabe school??? Oh...and I hope and pray that they do a mental evaluation on each student prior to admittance. I sure don't want to work with kids that have "issues." Mentally healthy kids personal problems. Oh yes....they must have two smart, college-educated parents that live in the home that can "do the math" or at least will sit there and monitor the kid doing the math. My, my....that would be a dream job, wouldn't it? Teaching smart kids that want to learn?

Some of us enjoy the diversity of the student population that we get in the public schools. Sometimes we must measure progress in teaspoons, and sometimes that teaspoon of progress will make our week. Perhaps you have were born with a wonderfully high IQ and your children have equally high IQs and no mental problems. You're lucky.

So, get rid of the teachers, there are no teacher unions in GA (so that problem is solved for you) and let private industry take over. It will be interesting to see what happens within the world of education.

Just so you know. I think Cupcake Hall is a sorry POS. She needs to be charged with something and forced to make reparations. She sickens me.

Not every teacher is "Sir" just in case I show my age look up movie "To Sir, with Love" about a teacher in a rough East End of London neighborhood. If you take the disrespect of those kids and multiply it by 10 you have too many of the kids now..not all but just enough to ruin things for the rest

I know the movie and love the song! You are correct about the disrepect, fortunately that level of disrepect is not common around here (at least in the high schools that I've worked in). As I wrote earlier, it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm too close to retirement to feel strongly about changing anything on a drastic level and my youngest will be done with school in a couple of years and we will be out of here. Everything is cyclic, is it not? I suspect that in the future a "good" education (ie, a good private school) will be available only to the wealthy. What do you think?

Veritas's picture

Grizz you do know that there are no teachers unions in Ga..,. (It's called a right to work state) ...dee dee dee....And using ATL schools cheating scandal to condemn all school systems . .... by using your logic all private entities are corrupt as there are thousands of examples of corruption / cheating in every area of the private sector.

on this issue---possibly you meant Moot? Changes everything.

You are absolutely right!! I Know that if our BOE considers spending that much money at this time on 'football' turf - I certainly won't be MUTE. Thanks for the correction.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

We all agree that teachers are necessary, but is football? How important is that? 30 or 40 kids get to play on a team once a week in the fall and we are thinking of spending $3million on turf? Instead let's ban football and have no expenses for turf, uniforms, coaches, transportation to away games, etc. No injuries, no expensive insurance, no August heatstroke.

Shouldn't somebody look at that in light of our $10million problem? After all, less than 1% of our students play football, whereas 100% have multiple teachers.

Live free or die!

suggarfoot's picture

your logic is overwhelming. As always you have a great way of summing things up.

In the next few years, with all the money spent, our school system will be fighting just to stay afloat. I think a few may be in denial.

Dondol's picture

on these fields, soccer and Lacross is played by both boys and girls varsity and JV teams. So really you have 11 different teams using the fields. I'm not for the Artificial turf but just wanted to through that out there.

We need to offer a balanced educational program to our young. That includes sports. With a 10 million dollar deficit- just don't see the wisdom in spending 3 million on turf.

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Veritas's picture

If you get your ESPLOST...I know you are intelligent enough to realize that esplost money can be used for text books , facilities etc  or portions thereof currently paid for from the regular budget using non- splost funds therefore freeing up some of those funds that CAN then be used to help pay personnel and prevent layoffs / furloughs . Giving time maybe to resolve or implement fiscal measures to help the budget issues and save people's jobs. ( you do realize some employees of the schools may have spouses / family just laid off by world airways and cooper lighting.....)
You can see that Right or are you saying your priorities are if it's your child's teacher or any faculty or staff member  has to be let go its still ok as long as you get artificial turf.

Veritas's picture


Veritas's picture


You know guys I would not want to teach in our schools these days. It used to be a teacher was someone who taught our children the important subjects, reading, writing and arithmetic and worked part time with children who were respectful and for the most part prepared with parental support. I graduated HS in 81 and even though we had some troublesome or unprepared kids (mainly stoners and yes, section 8 students) they still showed teachers respect. Now teachers are torn with unprepared children who never see the library and children who are ignorant and disrespectful ruining things for those who are. The problem must be with the teacher if the child can not read in 6th grade even though mom and dad would rather allow them to sit in front of the idiot box instead of making sure they did their homework and if they do not pay attention or disrupt class is not my angels fault...

So many kids now are lazy and in some cases, just plain mean...I wouldn't want the job


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