Lafayette club promotes artificial turf football fields

LAFAYETTE — Repairs will soon begin on Northside High’s grass football field, but one local group wants to help that school and other public high schools in the parish find a better fix.

The Kiwanis Club of Lafayette has offered its assistance in helping the high schools raise money to replace their grass football fields with artificial turf.

The cost per field is estimated at $500,000.

“It’s a tremendous project that will affect a tremendous amount of people in the schools,” said Robert LeJeune, a Kiwanis Club of Lafayette board member. “We, as a Kiwanis Club, plan on putting up the first $5,000 for all the football fields.”

The club partnered with the Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Parks and Recreation Department to outfit Clark Field with artificial turf and other improvements. That project was completed last year.

LeJeune said it could cost an estimated $30,000 a year for a school to maintain its football field and the district, over time, will pocket a savings that can be directed to other needs. An artificial turf field can last up to 15 years, he said.

“You’re saving $450,000 in maintenance cost. Couple that with the lost time of coaches who may spend five to six hours a week cutting grass,” LeJeune said.

He said the club focused on Northside first because it’s field is in bad shape.

Superintendent Pat Cooper said it would cost the school system about $250,000 to redo a dirt football field at Northside and it’s more economical to put that money toward an artificial turf field.

“Right now, what we’re trying to do is get the field patched up so that we can have a football season this fall,” Cooper said. “These are temporary fixes at this point.”

It’s possible that a new drainage system or repairs to the drainage system may also be needed for Northside’s field, said Kyle Bordelon, district facilities planning director.

Estimated patchwork repair costs for the Northside field are unknown at this time.

LeJeune said the club plans to make a pitch for its proposed partnerships with the high schools to the School Board at an upcoming meeting in the next month or two.

He said fundraising projects would involve the community and also the middle schools to help each high school raise at least $250,000 to cover half the costs of their new field. The other half would be an investment by the board and one that they’d recoup over time, LeJeune said.