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Bond Vote Set For New Turf Fields At CVU

Tuesday, Nov. 5, taxpayers in four Vermont towns will decide whether to vote in favor of a $1.5 million dollar bond for two synthetic turf fields at Champlain Valley Union High School, the biggest high school in Vermont.

Supporters of the project say wet weather often makes the current grass fields unusable for high school athletes.  But some critics wonder why a vote on high-priced turf is taking place outside the annual budget vote.

The $1.5 million bond is actually only half of the estimated cost of two new Astroturf fields for CVU. The other half will come from a private fundraising committee.

Kellie Stoll is part of that group. She says there was one game last Fall that helped her make up her mind about the need for new turf fields:

“Our senior players had to experience their Senior Day, which is supposed to be their last home game at their school, on a turf field at BHS,” said Stoll.  “And it just really is unfortunate that that’s how they had to remember their last Senior football game.”

The game was moved due to the excessive amount of mud and water on the field. The problem, turf supporters say, isn’t the grass itself but what’s underneath it.

The clay soil, coupled with years of overuse has made CVU’s fields excessively muddy, even after only a moderate amount of rain.

CVU Athletic Director Kevin Riell says poor field conditions can lead to injuries. So games get moved or canceled.

“The more deteriorated they get, the higher the percent for injury, for sure,” said Riell. “At which point I, being the athletic director, have to make a decision as to whether it’s playable or not.”

And Kelly Austin, a CVU parent and co-chair of the CVU Turf Fields Project says when practice is canceled; her son, a JV Lacrosse player, ends up on the couch.

“It would be a beautiful day, but because it had rained the day before, his practice would be canceled and he would come home and play X-Box instead of getting exercise and learning lacrosse and doing all of the things that I think are important being on a sports team,” said Austin.

Most agree the current fields should be fixed. Repairing one grass field would cost about $300,000, while installing a new turf field is over $800,000.

That high price tag has some voters wondering why the turf is necessary.

Charlotte resident John Howe says the turf project is being presented out of context with the rest of the school’s budget, which is voted on in March.

Howe also questions why over $2 million is being spent on fields, rather than academics.

“Why are we spending money on a turf field, when we still have fundamental problems at the high school?” asked Howe.

He thinks the achievement gap between lower-income and middle class students needs to be addressed, but he does think the bond will pass.

“I do think I’m in the minority. I think there’s tremendous support and enthusiasm for sports, especially at CVU,” said Howe.

If the bond does pass, the Turf Fields Committee hopes to have the new fields installed by next Fall. It’s estimated the synthetic turf carpet could last 10-15 years.

Voters in Shelburne, Charlotte, Hinesburg and Williston can vote Tuesday at their town offices.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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