The volunteer group raising money for artificial turf at Vernon Hills High School's football stadium is nearing the goal line.
The Project Turf organization had raised nearly $577,000 in cash or pledges since it was founded about a year ago, according to information at vhhscougars.org. That's about 72 percent of the group's $800,000 goal.
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Support has come from individuals and businesses with local ties including Home Depot, the American Hotel Register Company and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Rust-Oleum, the Vernon Hills company that purchased 20-year naming rights for the current field a decade ago, has pledged money for the effort, too.
"We continue to appreciate the support they've given us," Vernon Hills Athletic Director Brian McDonald said.
Organizers hope to have the full amount by the end of the school year so the grass field at the stadium can be replaced with turf ahead of the 2012 fall sports season, which includes football and boys soccer.
Replacing the grass with a man-made playing surface is expected to cost between $800,000 and $1 million, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 officials have said.
If Project Turf reaches its goal, the district will chip in $300,000 for the project, said Yasmine Dada, District 128's assistant superintendent for business. That's the same amount officials have budgeted to spruce up the grass field next year, Dada said.
The field has had the same natural playing surface since its 2002 debut. But the field is used only about 35 times a year because games take a toll on the grass, Project Turf chairman Dennis Donelon said.
"The grass just can't take a beating, day in and day out," he said.
Donelon, McDonald and other proponents say artificial turf is more durable and allows greater usage of the field by athletic teams, students in physical education classes and even community groups.
"We'll be using that thing morning, noon and night," McDonald said.
Donelon hopes a new field could attract soccer and lacrosse tournaments to Vernon Hills. Such events would draw customers to local hotels, restaurants and stores, he said.
"It's beyond just the students," he said.
Vernon Hills' sister school, Libertyville High, has had an artificial turf football field since 2005. A community group raised $650,000 for the project.
Lake Zurich High, Grant High in Fox Lake and Carmel Catholic High in Mundelein are among the other Lake County schools with artificial-turf gridirons. Mundelein High will get one in 2012.
Turf was added to the Vernon Hills High baseball field's infield in 2008 because of drainage problems.