Most of a new synthetic turf field for Patriot Stadium at Henry County High School would be paid for with Henry County School System funds, not money from the Quarterback Club booster organization, the Henry County Commission was told Tuesday night.
The commission, in a joint work session with members of the Henry County Board of Education at HCHS, heard a presentation from County Schools Director Leah Watkins about the artificial surface that has been discussed for the football stadium at the high school.
The old field is not in good shape, Watkins said. In November, when the Patriots football team was playing in the state playoffs, it “didn’t look pretty. It was brown and frozen,” she said.
The question of having artificial turf has been floating around the community for some time. Jon Davidson of the Quarterback Club said the boosters started accepting pledges for the turf between 1-2 years ago as soon as it got the go-ahead to pursue those pledges. The club has $118,000 ready right now to go toward the project.
The cost of the turf is an unknown because the system would have to bid out the project, Watkins said, but the anticipated cost is about $690,000 to $790,000.
Watkins said the options to pay the rest of that initial cost would be:
• Use a reserve capital line item in the county schools budget; and/or:
• Use money from the school system’s fund balance.
That means the Quarterback Club would be paying about 16 percent of the cost upfront (if it doesn’t get any additional private pledges) and the school system would pay the rest using taxpayer money. Watkins emphasized there would be no new revenues needed for the project, since the school system already has the money.
“And, it’s not all about the cost, it’s about the useability,” she said, noting various sports teams and the band would be able to use the turf.
Watkins said there’s a plan in place for the time 10-12 years from now when that artificial turf would need to be replaced.
She proposed using the savings in maintenance costs that would come about because of replacing the current natural grass surface (those savings are estimated at $24,000 to $30,000 a year) to raise about $300,000 in the next 10 years. That money would be placed into a savings fund for that replacement field whenever it’s needed.
The Quarterback Club would also contribute $50,000 a year during that time, thus raising another $500,000 toward a newer field. That's why the booster club still needs pledges to continue, in order to raise money for that replacement field. The cost of the second artificial turf field would only be about half the original turf field (or about $375,000), Watkins said, because many of the costs on the initial project, such as removing the crown from the field and repairing drainage issues would not be repeated with the replacement.
“We’d basically just be laying down a new carpet,” Watkins said of the replacement field 10-12 years down the road.