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posted: 8/24/2010 12:01 AM

Geneva school board OKs booster fundraiser for fake turf

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Geneva High School All-Sports Boosters can hit the start button on their campaign to raise money for artificial turf at Burgess Field.

The Geneva school board gave the club permission to do that Monday night. The board did not, however, vote on whether to actually install artificial turf at Burgess Field, which district officials says needs a new playing surface.

The vote to install turf will depend on how much money the boosters can raise, how fast they can raise it and how much longer the current field lasts. The board has not officially solicited bids for replacing the field and its drainage system.

If the field collapses soon or the fundraising stalls, the field may end up with natural grass after all, board President Mary Stith said Monday.

A report compiled this spring estimated it would cost $500,000 to replace the field - which has lost its crown and has broken or blocked drainage tiles - with natural grass. The committee that studied the issue estimated the field has one or two years of use left. Football and soccer players use other areas at the school for practices, including a baseball field, to prolong the life of Burgess Field.

Converting to artificial turf would cost an extra $500,000, but a committee believes it is a better deal in the long run, as maintenance and replacement costs would be much less than for natural grass.

"It (artificial turf) is an upgrade; it is not necessary to proceed," Trustee Tim Moran, who served on the turf committee, said when explaining why he doesn't think the district should pay for artificial turf.

That's why Thomas Finnberg, leader of the fundraising effort, is planning to sell T-shirts that say "Turf Without New Taxes." He will have a table of information at the annual Corn Boil fall sports kickoff cookout Wednesday night at the field.

Boosters club vice president Finnberg was waiting for board approval before collecting money but has sold advertising for the back of the T-shirts, set up Facebook and Twitter pages and is unveiling a website, Money for the field will be held in a separate account from other booster funds, he said.

One potential big donor is Pepsi, through its online "Vote to Refresh America" promotion. Finnberg expects Geneva to compete in October. Pepsi is giving away $1.3 million a month, including one to two $250,000 grants.

"If we can get that, we are looking pretty good," Finnberg said.

At the other end of the fundraising scale from Pepsi is the Burgess Bracelets. Made by Taylor Williams, an eighth-grade soccer player and sister of Vikings quarterback Matt Williams, the blue-and-white bracelets include sports-related beads. They cost $5 each.

"It's a really cool thing," Finnberg said.