Loudoun County is approaching a major milestone. In just over two years, every one of its public high schools will have the coveted synthetic turf fields.
After months of debate about whether the projects should more forward, school and county leaders have hammered out the construction timeline for installation of the fields for Dominion, Heritage, Briar Woods and Freedom high schools, the last schools without artificial turf.
If all goes as planned, Dominion and Heritage will get their new synthetic turf field and resurfaced tracks by August 2018, and Briar Woods and Freedom will get theirs by August 2019.
The school system is planning for four months for environmental studies and engineering design, five months for the site plan reviews and permit approvals, two months for the bidding process, and four months of construction.
Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent of Support Services, presented the timeline at the county Board of Supervisors/School Board Joint Committee meeting Wednesday.
“These are pretty significant jobs,” Lewis told supervisors and School Board members. “These are bigger than just laying down the carpet.”
The school system hired two engineering firms so that the projects could move forward at a good clip simultaneously.
Lewis acknowledged that if the fields weren’t being built on active school campuses, the work could begin and end sooner. But his office schedules all synthetic turf installation over the summer months when school is out. It’s tough for construction machinery to navigate a campus bustling with 2,000 students and the bus and pedestrian traffic that go along with it.
“That was one of the risks we talked about with staff when we considered these timelines,” Lewis said. “They represent the very least impact on the students and, at the end of the day, that’s our goal.”
It cost about $2.3 million for each project, which includes replacing a natural grass field with a synthetic turf field and to resurface a track.
Not long after the first games are played on the artificial turf fields at Briar Woods and Freedom high schools, it will be time to go back and replace the fields at the first two schools in the county that received synthetic fields. Woodgrove and Tuscarora high schools debuted crumb rubber turf when they opened in 2010, and the fields are scheduled to be resurfaced in fiscal year 2021 for $615,000 each.
Ever since those first fields were laid in 2010, artificial turf has been an ongoing to debate; first whether to install it at each high school, then how to pay for it and, most recently, whether to continue opting for the crumb rubber-infill fields or go with a potentially safer material, like an infill called thermoplastic elastomeric.
Loudoun health department director Dr. David Goodfriend weighed in on the issue to say that, while there are some concerns that the crumb rubber—made of recycled tires—contains potentially cancer-causing material, there is no evidence that it actually causes people cancer. School Board members have said, for now, they will continue with crumb rubber.