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updated: 4/5/2011 12:24 AM

Anonymous donor pledges $450,000 to Burgess Field fund

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An anonymous donor is willing to donate enough money to put the campaign to install artificial turf at Geneva High School's Burgess Field over the goal line.

The Geneva Community Unit School District 304 school board will have a special meeting on Wednesday to consider accepting the anonymous gift of approximately $450,000, as well as $50,000 from the Friends of Burgess Field.

The Friends of Burgess Field have been raising money for the project since August.

"I'm just thankful we have someone stepping forward," Superintendent Kent Mutchler said. "... It's exciting for the kids."

Last year, the board agreed to redo the stadium field with artificial turf if private donations covered at least half the projected cost of $1 million.

If the board accepts the gifts, it will then vote on seeking construction bids for the project. The goal, Mutchler said, is to receive bids by the board's April 25 meeting so the work can be done this spring and summer.

Geneva High School's main playing field is natural grass. It has lost its crown -- a slightly higher point in the middle of the field -- and has poor drainage due to broken and blocked drain tiles. Soccer and football teams have avoided practicing on the field to minimize further damage.

A report from a special committee last year estimated the field had only one or two years' use left, and that replacing the turf with natural turf would cost about $500,000. Whether it is rebuilt with artificial or natural turf, the field will get a new drainage system.

The board agreed the school district should pick up the cost equivalent to natural turf, but if the community wanted artificial turf it would have to pay the extra cost.

Friends of Burgess Field campaign, with the slogan "Turf Without Taxes," began at the annual preseason Corn Boil in August. By the beginning of October it had raised about $20,000 from various activities, including selling "Burgess Bracelets" made by a middle-school student.

Calls seeking comment from the school board and Friends of Burgess field were not immediately returned.