Turf decision likely Wednesday

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This screenshot from a recent presentation by GreenPlay, LLC, the city of Sandpoint’s consultants in developing a Parks and Recreation Master Plan, shows the preliminary concept for War Memorial Field, with the consultants recommending artificial turf for the field surface.

SANDPOINT — City Council members will decide whether to approve the design concept for War Memorial Field on Wednesday, taking into consideration the recommendation by the city’s consultants to install artificial turf at the field.

The city’s consultants, GreenPlay, LLC, and subcontractor Bernardo Wills Architects presented the design concept during the Oct. 2 City Council meeting, where they said artificial turf would “accommodate an incredible increase in access and use.” According to the conclusion of the consultant’s cost study report, which is available on the city’s website at sandpointidaho.gov, while natural turf has a lower initial cost and life cycle cost, it also has a shorter life span than artificial turf and would require rest periods between events. The initial cost for natural turf, according to the study, is $3,380,000, and the initial cost of artificial turf is $3,737,000.

In the report, GreenPlay officials noted that artificial turf allows events to occur during and after storm events, reducing the need to move events due to wet conditions. It would also mean a flatter playing surface as well as more consistent playing conditions.

However, turf somewhat limits the ability to accommodate non-athletic events because it limits the ability to put stakes in the ground for things like the Festival at Sandpoint’s iconic tent.

Natural turf and a hybrid of natural and artificial turf would not allow for an increase in the number of events held at Memorial Field while artificial turf on its own would allow for more events, the report notes.

“Increased usage of field with artificial turf may generate revenues and local economic growth that could offset additional cost to some degree,” GreenPlay officials said in the report.

All of the options proposed for the field would allow for a safe and attractive venue. However, the report notes that athlete safety on artificial turf continues to be debated.

Nutrient runoff is a concern with natural turf and the environmental impact of artificial turf is something that continues to be debated, the report notes.

The turf discussion dates back more than two years, with a number of workshops and public meetings held by the city and its consultants to garner public input on the project. Memorial Field gets an average of 750 hours of use per year between the Festival at Sandpoint, events such as weddings and graduation, and sporting events, including football, soccer, baseball and lacrosse. The turf has been a controversial topic over the last two years as athletic groups have called for an artificial surface to maximize playability year-round, while representatives from the Festival have rallied for natural grass since artificial has the potential to be 26-degrees hotter than natural grass in August.

If the design concept is approved, city staff will put out an request for qualifications for engineering services to move forward with the project.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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