Aspen High to get turf athletic field | AspenTimes.com

Aspen High to get turf athletic field

Janet Urquhart and Nate Peterson

The city, Aspen School District and private donors are chipping in to build a lighted, turf football stadium at Aspen High.The city of Aspen will put up $300,000 to match an allocation approved Monday by the Aspen School Board for a new, artificial surface on the school football field.The City Council, which spent much of last year researching the potential for plastic grass on one of its downtown parks, agreed 4-1 to the expenditure after a brief discussion Tuesday. Councilman Torre said he wanted more information before he could support the request on short notice.The city and school district will jointly pay for installation of the artificial surface, which is more durable than natural grass and offers a longer season of use. In addition, private donors are lined up to contribute up to $900,000 for new spectator stands, a press box, restrooms and lights for the field.”That’s obviously the more controversial issue, politically,” said city Parks Director Jeff Woods, in reference to what would be Aspen’s first lighted athletic field.The school district will have to make peace with the neighbors on that issue, Mayor Helen Klanderud noted.The district will try to make the lights as unobtrusive as possible, schools Superintendent Diana Sirko said.”We may get some concern from community members because of the lights, but we’ve done research on the lights and we would be using high-tech lights with a minimum amount of splashback,” she said. “We’re trying to minimize any amount of disruption for the surrounding area. We’re trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.”The artificial surface would save about $25,000 annually in maintenance of the existing field, plus about 1 million gallons of water used to irrigate it, Woods said. It would also alleviate pressure to come up with new places to build city playing fields, he said.Sirko also touted the low-maintenance, high-use capabilities of fake turf.”This is a new kind of artificial turf. It has very few incidences of injuries and it has a variety of uses. We could use it for football, soccer, lacrosse. It would be like installing three new fields, not just one,” she said. “It also creates an incredible opportunity. We can’t get on the field until late April with the snow. With this stuff, you can plow down to within five inches and then the rest of the snow just melts away. It would allow us to use the field in the spring for girls soccer or baseball.”Installation of the turf would begin next May so it’s ready to go in fall 2006.The school district will use proceeds from the sale of the Red and Yellow Brick school buildings more than 10 years ago to fund its share of the turf. The city’s allocation will come from its parks and open space fund, supported by a sales tax.Some $500,000 has already been pledged toward amenities like the new stands and lights, according to Travis Benson, Aspen High football coach.”They’re coming from not only a multitude of parents who have ties to football, soccer and lacrosse, but there’s possibilities of stuff like rugby, as well as the soccer programs like the United Soccer Club [of Aspen]… . To be quite honest, this is a great community and we have great parents. The parents have put forth that investment on raising that capital. We didn’t have to do a lot of work. The parents just stepped up through word of mouth,” he said. “It was grassroots campaign, no pun intended,” Sirko said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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