The Anoka-Hennepin School District is making progress on its plan to install synthetic turf at high schools and is considering whether to add a synthetic turf field on the Anoka High School campus instead of at Goodrich Field.
At the end of last year the School Board voted to move ahead with installing artificial turf, and it heard a progress update July 13.
Early this year the design team spent a few months reaching out to staff, coaches and student athletes to hear their opinions.
In early March the committee responsible for the turf decisions visited half a dozen fields in the metro area. During the tour, staff members tried out the different kinds of turf and spoke with the staff and users of each field. Field Turf Vertex Prime was one of the more popular options among committee members, according to Steve Anderson, director of buildings and grounds.
The district is considering installing artificial turf on 10 fields. That would include four stadium fields and Goodrich Field, plus one practice field on each high school campus.
The current schedule calls for installation at the stadium fields during the summer of 2021 and the practice fields the following summer, Anderson said.
The committee has run into issues with the Goodrich Field. One problem is ongoing parking issues at the field and Anoka Middle School for the Arts, Anderson said. There are also issues with students’ access to Goodrich, because of its off-campus location.
Anderson also talked about how having a field on Anoka High School property would improve the cohesion between varsity and junior varsity teams. Junior varsity and varsity teams often watch each others’ games, but it’s difficult for teams to do that at Goodrich, because it isn’t on the high school campus, Anderson said.
An alternative to installing artificial turf on Goodrich Field would be installing a stadium field on Anoka High School property. The committee is considering delaying the Anoka High School portion of the project a year to examine the possibility of a stadium field on the Anoka High School campus.
Board Member Jeff Simon asked about the health concerns when it came to using crumb rubber to fill turf. He noted that the EPA’s ongoing study showed no conclusive results and asked if the different types of turf used the same kinds of fill.
Anderson said that crumb rubber is used in the turf that the committee examined. There are existing alternatives, such as coconut husk, but they didn’t see anyone using them.
“Some of the other materials that Steve spoke of, we don’t know that they’re necessarily safer,” Chief Operations Officer Greg Cole said. “We have no information on that. What do know is as of today that crumb rubber is a preferable surface to play.”
The district says installing artificial turf fields would allow Anoka-Hennepin to stop paying to use other fields. Currently the Minnesota State High School League requires all state tournament games to be played on synthetic turf. To prepare, teams lease synthetic turf fields to practice on.
Fields with artificial could also be used more often. Natural grass fields need to be left unused in the spring to recover from the previous season, according to Cole’s statements in the Nov. 12 meeting.
Each synthetic turf field is estimated to cost $1 million to $1.2 million, for a total cost of $10 million to $12 million.
Construction documents for stadium fields are currently being drawn up. They will have to go to watershed districts for review before the district can move forward, Cole said.
The bids for prep work on the stadium fields are expected to be ready mid-August. However, the district will have to get additional feedback from the community on whether to install a field on the Anoka High School campus.