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MISSION— Over the last 40 years football field turf has changed drastically. Starting with professional football teams, Astroturf was adopted by many clubs across the country. Problems with turf injuries has caused manufacturers to develop the more modern Field Turf and RealGrass, a synthetic alternative created to mimic natural grass.

Mission Consolidated Independent School District (MCISD) is looking at joining the ranks of several other Valley high schools who have installed artificial turf at their football stadiums. On Oct. 10, the Mission School Board heard a presentation by Hellas Construction, Inc., who has installed artificial turf at other local high schools.

One of important considerations for the board will be the price tag of an artificial turf field, estimated to be about $800,000 – excluding any changes to the track – according to Hellas Construction representative Conrado Alvarado. With an expected lifespan of eight to 10 years, plus annual maintenance costs, the artificial field would cost the district $85,000 to $105,000 per year.

In 2006, Mission Schools performed an analysis of the district’s cost of maintaining the field at Tom Landry Stadium. The report showed the annual cost to be $48,500, including fertilizer, top dressing, water, paint, lawn equipment, equipment purchases, irrigation system maintenance and labor.

Based on the figures provided by the district, it would cost taxpayers about twice as much if the district decided to switch to artificial turf.

MCISD Board Member Oscar Martinez said the board will look into all aspects of the project, but they also need to look at the turf as an investment as well as a beautification process.

“There are a lot of factors to look at and think about,” Martinez said. “The sad thing is when the football season starts, we get a lot of people saying, ‘What have you all done to the field…it looks terrible’. It’s not that maintenance is not doing their job, they are, but when you have so much wear and tear it looks bad.”

Sharyland ISD Athletic Director Richard Thompson said Rattler Stadium has had artificial turf for a little over six years.

“It has held up well, we are hoping to make at least eight years,” Thompson said. “We use it an awful lot. Our junior varsity and varsity teams practice on the turf, and right after football, soccer comes in.”

When implementing turf, it requires installing a drainage system beneath the field and multiple layers of material to create the cushion and splash resistance needed for an artificial field. Thompson said, though implementing the turf is not cheap, over time maintenance and replacement makes turf a cost-effective investment.

“The main thing about turf is you don’t necessarily save a lot of money. We figured it cost about $60,000 a year to keep a grass field,” Thompson said. “The second time you lay in turf it’s like laying down carpet, all the drainage and the infrastructure are there. The cost is half as much as when we originally put it in…. It’s pretty close as far as cost”

Thompson said the best advantage is when heavy rains shower their field it is easily drained and functional within 30 minutes.

The athletic director said the cost for the turf at Rattlers Stadium totaled $1 million with Hellas Construction, Inc., including costs for a new track and drainage.

“We tore our track out, and they replaced the whole track, and that usually costs $350,000,” he said. “We got a very good deal…. We were the first in the Valley to have a synthetic grass turf.”

Shortly after, Thompson said, other districts followed suit, including PSJA, who converted to artificial turf in February 2007.

Artificial turf is still being discussed at MCISD, with the item appearing again on the Facilities Committee agenda this week. Trustees will be faced with a decision of whether to follow what other districts are doing, possibly doubling their annual costs for the football field, or staying with a grass field.

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