Artificial turf effort continues

School district plan unrelated to city project at Heritage Park


— Patches of dirt and candy wrappers dot Gardner Field.

Replacement of the natural grass field at Steamboat Springs High School is moving forward as scheduled, so regular maintenance on the school district's primary athletic field has ceased.

On Thursday, four members of the Steamboat Springs girls soccer team walked onto the field to kick the ball around before club practice, and the girls couldn't help but notice the field's condition.

When complete, Gardner Field will host football, boys and girls soccer and boys and girls lacrosse games at the varsity and junior varsity levels. Practices for those sports -- and others -- and younger groups' use of the field remains uncertain.

First, the field has to be built, and there has been some community confusion regarding how that is going to take place.

The school's field

The Steamboat Springs Ed-

ucation Fund Board authorized a gift of up to $250,000 to the private committee spearheading efforts to build an artificial turf field at the high school. The committee agreed to raise the remaining funds in time to construct the field by mid-August.

That is unchanged.

"The community has been very supportive of our fundraising efforts," said Rick Garth, a committee member and coach with the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association. "Fundraising is proceeding on course."

Construction of the school's new field, which will be built on the existing field's site, likely will begin this month, Garth added, giving builders enough time to finish the field before Steamboat's first football game against Kent Denver on Aug. 26.

"We are getting the pieces in place," Sailors football coach Aaron Finch said. "There are a lot of little decisions to make, like how many permanent lines to put in and how many lines do we want to paint each season. The fundraising has gone well. The community has been very generous."

Finch said he is on the board that plans to meet throughout the summer, as it continues to finalize decisions and bang out policies.

One thing is certain -- everyone who wants the field built envisions it as a positive for the city's youth.

"Because we are raising community dollars, there is a strong belief we want this to be available for kids as well as spring sports," Finch said.

Two different projects

While out fundraising, the field committee members have been asked questions from Steamboat Springs residents.

The city of Steamboat Springs is contemplating an artificial turf field at Heritage Park. The city has received a $150,000 grant for the construction of such a field. The city has not decided yet whether to move forward with that field.

But the city's efforts have been confused with the school efforts and could hinder fundraising for the latter.

Long-term, having two artificial fields could benefit the community, officials familiar with both projects said.

"These are two very different projects, but they would be very complementary as far as field structure and use for the region," said Linda Kakela, the city's director of intergovernmental services. "The community has the opportunity to get two great upgrades."

The proposed field at Heritage Park has long been planned as part of the athletic complex envisioned for the site by property owner Ty Lockhart. Lockhart would lease the field to the city.

The artificial field would be the third athletic field at the site and the only artificial surface. It would be maintained by the city.

Plans originally called for a baseball field, but those have been revised to appease Heritage Park homeowners. The new proposal calls for one field measuring 320 feet long and 205 feet wide, which is larger than the proposed field at the high school.

"If the city of Steamboat Springs goes forward, the homeowners did say their support would be conditioned on resolving parking out there, but they were optimistic that could be done," Kakela said. "What is being proposed is a full-sized artificial turf field available for the entire community."

Some in the community, including Steamboat Springs City Council president Ken Brenner, suggested the school district use the $150,000 GOCo grant for its artificial turf project, but it's not that simple.

"School districts are not eligible grant recipients for Great Outdoors Colorado funds," Kakela said. "Local governments are the eligible grant recipients. We did research on the artificial turf with GOCo, what process we would go through to either move that grant to the football project or turn the grant back and apply for a new one. But that wouldn't have been available until 2007, and we would have no assurance of getting that funding back."

The city has until Dec. 1 to complete its project, but Steamboat could ask for an extension of 90 days to allow project completion in 2007. The city can return the GOCo grant if it isn't going to use it on an artificial turf field at Heritage Park.

The school district is aiming for a 2006 completion of its field, so the timetables are different, as well.

"We are on schedule," Finch said of the high school field. "We are confident we could get this done."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail


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