Article updated: 4/14/2011 4:13 PM

Wheeling, Hersey high schools get new fields; Buffalo Grove and Prospect wait their turn

Barrington High School Athletic Director Mike Obsuszt walks the newly artificial surface at the school’s football stadium in 2008. Hersey and Wheeling high schools will join Barrington High later this year in having an artificial football field.

Barrington High School Athletic Director Mike Obsuszt walks the newly artificial surface at the school's football stadium in 2008. Hersey and Wheeling high schools will join Barrington High later this year in having an artificial football field.

 

Daily Herald File photo by Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@da

 Fremd High School holds its first student activity — a dedication ceremony featuring the marching band, cheerleaders and many other student groups — on the new artificial turf in the school’s stadium in 2008. Hersey and Wheeling high schools will join Fremd and Barrington High School later this year as a Northwest suburban high school with an artificial football field.

Fremd High School holds its first student activity -- a dedication ceremony featuring the marching band, cheerleaders and many other student groups -- on the new artificial turf in the school's stadium in 2008. Hersey and Wheeling high schools will join Fremd and Barrington High School later this year as a Northwest suburban high school with an artificial football field.

 

Daily herald file photo by Mark Black/mblack@daily

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It wasn't the $3 million they were looking for, but Northwest Suburban High School District 214 officials will take it.

Park districts in Arlington Heights and Wheeling agreed to pitch in about $500,000 each to fund the nearly $1 million cost of installing artificial turf fields at Hersey High School and Wheeling High School, said Superintendent David Schuler.

"I am very pleased to have found two partners to collaborate with us on this project," he said. "This partnership will benefit both communities by expanding opportunities while saving dollars. It is a win-win for the park districts, the school district, and our entire community."

The fields -- which will be installed this summer -- would host more than just football games. Graduations and band competitions could take place there, said Bill Dussling, president of the District 214 school board.

"A few years ago Wheeling had a band competition where the field was so muddy they had to finish inside in the field house," he said. "Some schools don't want to compete at our schools because of the possibility of muddy, wet fields." According to a 10-page report prepared by Schuler, the district's six fields are one of the "most underused facilities on our schools campuses" since they are used less than 45 days a year. Gym classes rarely use them and marching bands are often pushed to the parking lots. Marching band invitationals hosted by several of the schools are losing participants because band directors prefer turf fields where the event will take place for certain and their band members will be safe, according to Schuler's report.

The 12-year cost of an artificial surface would be about $927,000, including $900,000 for installation and $27,000 for maintenance. Maintaining a grass field for 12 years costs about $660,000, according to the report.

Now that the Arlington Heights and Wheeling park districts have stepped up, it's something other park districts, like Buffalo Grove's, will consider -- just not this year.

"We just have other more pressing projects this year," said Dan Schimmel, executive director of the Buffalo Grove Park District. "That's a big capital project that would go before our board."

The earliest the board would discuss turf fields would be in 2012 or 2013, Schimmel said.

Same goes for Mount Prospect. Next year would be the soonest that board would consider action, said Walter Cook, executive director of the Mount Prospect Park District.

District 214's school board will formally vote to approve the park district agreements on April 28.

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