Turf battle brews at new high school | VailDaily.com

Turf battle brews at new high school

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kira Horvath/Daily file photoThere are no bleachers or lights in current plans for athletic fields at the new Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. That means football games and other events would have to be played in Eagle-Vail.

EDWARDS ” Artificial turf and bleachers aren’t planned for the new high school’s athletic fields in Edwards, and Battle Mountain coaches and parents have a big problem with that.

When voters approved the $128 million bond issue last November, many expected every aspect of the new high school to be bigger and better than the last. But with a grass sports field instead of a durable turf field, with no bleachers for spectators, with no lights for evening practices and no press box for announcers ” are student athletes getting something bigger and better?

No way, says Kirk VanHee, a father of three soccer girls at Battle Mountain ” one who’s graduated, one who’s a senior and one who will be a freshman when the new Battle Mountain opens.

“We voted for a state of the art high school ” not a state of the art partial high school,” VanHee said. “If I had known this would happen, I wouldn’t have supported the bond issue.”

It’s still possible to get these things ” it will just depend on where the money falls at construction time.

“I hope we can get a full stadium built at Battle Mountain High School, but we need to know if we have the dollars,” Board of Education President Scott Green said.

Can a single grass field hold up over time? With lacrosse growing in popularity, and with soccer and track and P.E. classes, the field planned at the new high school could see eight hours of use a day, which could be more than it can handle, coaches say.

Since school districts aren’t traditionally good keepers of grass fields, durable turf would make a lot more sense, soccer coach David Cope said. Grass fields wear out, develop bald patches and can look pretty torn up after a lacrosse game.

And with spring sports starting in February, well before all the snow melts, it makes sense to play soccer and lacrosse on a field that’s mostly mud, Cope said.

There is a turf field at Freedom Park across the street from the new high school that can be used, but it’s highly used by other youth sports groups and private schools and won’t always be available. It’s been made clear that Battle Mountain is not a priority user of those fields and will have to wait its turn.

A lacrosse tournament bumped girl’s soccer out of Freedom Park for its second-round state playoff game on May 12 against Evergreen. The girls had to play the game at Vail Mountain School.

“They need another turf field ” every year there are more people vying for those fields at Freedom Park,” said Tanya Landauer, who has a daughter playing soccer at Battle Mountain and a son who just graduated. “You’re building this beautiful school ” why won’t you have the facilities you need on site?”

Turf also has the plus of being easier to maintain. No one has to mow it, it doesn’t require re-sodding, and without the need for watering, it’s eco-friendly. The coaches don’t want to make the argument that it pays for itself ” turf fields are expensive. But they argue its a worthwhile investment considering the large number of students that will use it.

Without bleachers, home games aren’t really home games anymore. Football will be played at the existing Phelan Field on the existing campus in Eagle-Vail, and students will have to drive over.

Anytime you hold games somewhere besides the school, and kids just can’t walk out of class and join the game, participation goes down, Cope said.

It also discourages kids who may not have reliable transportation from joining a sports team, he said.

“It diminishes school spirit,” said Rohn Robbins, a parent of two Battle Mountain football players. “They’ll stay after school to decorate a field, and it will diminish the number of kids who will get in their car and drive to decorate the old fields.”

Younger players and students without cars will have to catch rides with upper classmen ” a safety issue coaches would like to avoid. Cope would rather see all these students walking to games instead of driving to them.

He points out that a girl’s soccer game last season was postponed because of a roll over accident involving girls from a visiting high school. Having games on campus is much safer, he said.

“In some cases, like with skiing and hockey, it can’t be avoided, but as much as possible, we’d like to cut down the car trips,” Cope said.

While the new high school will have an eight-lane track surrounding the field, without bleachers, they’ll still have to have meets in Eagle-Vail, which will require transporting hurdles, jumping pits, pole vault mats and other equipment back and fourth between the practice fields and the meets.

Because the old track only has six lanes, Battle Mountain won’t be able to host larger track meets, Cope said.

The school board approved preliminary designs for the new high school, and those plans don’t include turf, bleachers, lights and a press box. Those things will be considered as possible add ons dependent on how much building the rest of the school ends up costing.

If there is money to spare, we have to keep in mind that there are other groups that would like add ons as well, Green said.

“Every special interest in every department has things they would like to see,” Green said. “We want to give culinary arts more square footage.”

Nothing is set in stone though, Cope said, and parents should make their feelings known to the school board on how important athletics are.

“If more people knew about this, they would feel betrayed, especially people who supported the bond issue,” VanHee said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism