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BOE votes to spend nearly $1M to replace J. Fred turf

Rick Wagner • Nov 14, 2018 at 11:01 AM

KINGSPORT — Everybody with carpet has to replace it eventually, but if your square footage is bigger than a football field, the price is obviously going to be higher than the local home improvement warehouse or carpet outlet quote for a residential home.

Kingsport school system leaders have unanimously approved spending just short of $1 million to replace the more than 10-year-old artificial turf at J. Fred Johnson Stadium at Dobyns-Bennett High School. The turf covers both the football and baseball field used by the Indians, as well as an indoor baseball practice facility on the site. School officials said the new turf is expected to last at least 10 years.

The Board of Education voted 5-0 to approve awarding the low bid of five submitted to Calhoun, Ga.-based FieldTurfUSA Inc., as well as three of five alternates, for total construction costs of $853,804 plus 6 percent architect fees of $51,228 and a 6 percent contingency of $51,228 for a total of $956,263. The money is to come from recent city bond funds, and the project is to be completed by Feb. 11, 2019, in time for use in baseball season.

The matter must go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its meeting later this month before the project can commence.

WHAT IS SYSTEM’S EXPERIENCE WITH LOW BIDDER?

FieldTurf installed the original artificial turf. D-B Principal Chris Hampton said the company honored the eight-year warranty and went beyond that to repair some issues 10 years later, although school system officials said they could not provide warranty details for the new surface, which replaces one installed in 2008.

One alternate added $37,047 to the base bid of $756,045, and it provides and installs fencing and insert sleeves. Another alternate was to require completion by Feb. 11 at a cost of $10,500, and the other alternate was to install about 6,400 square feet of new artificial turf at the indoor practice field. After the meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said an unused option was that the old outdoor turf would have shrunk at the inside facility, and another unused alternative was to install standard infill instead of cooling technology infill. True said later he thought the Indians had played football on the current turf at least 11 seasons.

COST SAVINGS VERSUS INSTALLATION COSTS

Todd Golden asked about the cost effectiveness and any cost savings associated with the turf, which requires no watering or reseeding like real grass.

“We could not keep it adequately serviced,” board President Carrie Upshaw said of the stadium that used real grass before the artificial turf was installed on a field used for football, baseball and by the marching band. Susan Lodal said of the board’s initial decision to install artificial turf: “It was not the cheaper option. It was the better option.” She said the turf is safer and provides a softer surface for falls than natural grass.

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said many high schools in Northeast Tennessee installed artificial turf about a decade ago and that all to his knowledge are planning to install new turf, including Greeneville High School, Johnson City’s Science Hill and Hamblen County fields.

True said the project is not as expensive as the initial turf project because the required grading and drainage have already been done. The school system’s initial capital project budget was for a $1 million turf project for the 2017-18 academic year.

The board in 2016 approved a $400,000 asphalt band practice field.

Some sports fans this summer expressed concern that Sullivan County’s new 1,700-student West Ridge High School, set to open in the fall of 2021 off Exit 63 of Interstate 81, did not have artificial turf in the budget. However, county school board Chairman Michael Hughes said it is possible turf might be added before the project is finished or it might be added later. 

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