St. Charles schools looks at how to pay for turf fields at high schools

Posted5/27/2016 5:10 AM

St. Charles school officials know it will cost $2 million to install turf at each of the district's two high schools. Now they have to decide what price they are willing to pay to find that money.

School board members reviewed a plan Thursday night allowing athletic boosters at each school to sell advertising packages to local businesses that would raise about $100,000 per year. Ideally, each booster club would donate about half the cost of the turf fields. The advertising would be mostly outdoor signs, banners and placards. The school board has never actually voted on, or even debated, the need for turf fields at the schools. But members present at a committee meeting Thursday universally supported the idea of selling ads. But where to put the ads raised questions.


School district Superintendent Don Schlomann said St. Charles North's football field has virtually no top soil. The existing grass is patchy, at best. East's field is relatively better shape. But there is an issue of fairness, he said, when it comes to adding turf fields and how to pay for them. "You can't say to North, 'We want you to raise $500,000 to help put in a turf field,' and then go to East and say, 'OK, we'll buy your turf,'" Schlomann said. "There would be a lot of bad feelings there."

A key issue is the location of both high schools. North's location, off Red Gate Road, includes fencing visible to passing traffic. That's the kind of space for which boosters at North believe they can charge up to $10,000 per ad. However, what's visible to traffic is also visible to nearby homes.

"It's one thing to be fundraising," school board member Lori Linkimer said. "It's another to be marring a residential area. I wouldn't be very happy if I was a resident across from this if this is what I was looking out across at all the time."

But board member Jim Gaffney saw little difference between a football field fence with no ads and a fence with ads. "The more (the boosters) raise, the less the school district has to contribute," Gaffney said. "If someone said they would donate the full cost of the turf field but they want advertising on that fence, would you do it?"

For the full $1 million, some school board members said they would take that deal. But if an advertiser was only willing to pay $5 for that same space, they would likely reject it.

The committee directed school staff members and the boosters to do two things before any decision will be made. First, board members want to be sure city regulations allow for such advertising. And second, they want a better idea of how much the boosters can and will sell that Red Gate fence space for. The committee will discuss the issue again in a month.

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