A cooperative effort between Cherry Hill Township and Cherry Hill Public Schools could bring turf fields to both Cherry Hill High School East and West in the near future.
The athletics facilities committee made a presentation to the Cherry Hill Board of Education’s strategic planning committee last Tuesday in support of installing turf fields at both of the district’s high schools.
Cherry Hill Township has proposed a plan where it would manage the project and supervise the installation. The township would pay for half of the project’s costs, with the district paying the other half. In the plan, the township would pay for the project upfront, with the district reimbursing the township with its half of the cost after the project is completed. The athletic facilities committee has estimated it will cost about $725,000 to install turf on one field.
Township director of communications Bridget Palmer confirmed the township has discussed the plan with the school district, saying the proposal is in an exploratory stage at this point.
“We think there’s value in helping our schools to preserve their infrastructure,” Palmer said.
If installed, both high schools’ football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams would use the fields. In addition, the fields would be open to residents when high school teams are not using them.
Cherry Hill East Principal Lawyer Chapman and Cherry Hill West Principal Kwame Morton said there are benefits turf fields would bring to their high schools, the district and the surrounding community. They implored the strategic planning committee and administrators present to move forward with the proposal.
“We feel very strongly we should accept the proposal and install the turf fields,” Chapman said.
One of the biggest benefits is the money the district could save long-term with installing turf. The committee estimated maintaining a grass field costs as much as $52,000 per year. Maintaining a turf field would only cost about $5,000 per year.
“The only cost for it after you put it down is to clean it,” Chapman said.
Each turf field’s surface would also need replacement once every 12 to 15 years. The committee noted the cost of field replacement is much lower than installation and would only occur periodically.
Rich Stern, a Cherry Hill East parent and member of the athletics facilities committee, mentioned the turf replacement cost wouldn’t necessarily be a huge hassle since grass fields are also replaced periodically. Such a project could cost the same amount of money as turf replacement.
“At some point over the next 10 to 15 years, our natural grass fields would need to be replaced as well,” Stern said.
One of the big factors for installing the turf was for safety. Stern noted the turf would reduce the amount of danger present in the grass fields such as divots and uneven ground. These hazards could cause larger problems for the district.
“There may be potential liability issues if the fields are not maintained properly,” Stern said.
Members of the strategic planning committee did express some concern about the temperature of the turf during hot weather. The athletic facilities committee noted most high school practices and games don’t take place during the hottest part of the day. They also said other schools with turf fields such as Eastern High School in Voorhees have never had to postpone a game due to heat.
Superintendent Maureen Reusche said school administrators will discuss the proposal and bring a recommendation to the strategic planning committee in March.