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8 Essays: A Case Against Artificial Turf in Geneva

Yes, Geneva Patch gave a lot of positive pixels to the Burgess Field turf issue, but there is one argument against it that hasn't been brought up—until now.

I have an issue with artificial turf on Burgess Field.

"What?!" I hear you saying, with multiple question marks and exclamation points and odd use of italics. "Isn't Geneva Patch the site that encouraged all those votes and ran check-passing photos and video arguments in favor of the turf field?"

Yes. Yes we did.

But my gripe isn't with the dollars and sense of artificial turf. It is with the prospects for Geneva Viking football.

"Yikes!!" I hear you saying. "Are you off your nut, Nagel?"

Yes. Yes, I am.

First off, I'm a little nutty because no one is supposed to say "football" in connection with the field turf, because that's too easy a target for opponents. "Mighty football rules all in Geneva," the conventional wisdom says, but I don't think that's the story here.

Yes, football is the money-maker, but the "dollars and sense" reference above—in my opinion—holds true. Synthetic turf is a good idea, and it is as valuable—possibly even more so—for the band, the soccer team, Geneva PE classes, a million-and-one Park District opportunities and for Geneva taxpayers, as it is for Viking football.

And, arguably, less so for football.

Here's why.

In the past two years, Geneva football's record on artificial turf is abominable.

You can count on six fingers the number of Geneva varsity football losses in the past two years. Geneva's record was 8-3 in 2010 and 7-3 in 2011.

Guess how many of those six losses were on artificial surfaces. I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's five. Geneva lost at , and in 2010—all synthetic turf stadiums. The Vikings lost to at Burgess Field, plus on synthetic tracks at and in 2011. 

The truth is, the sloppy, quirky, funky Burgess field was more often than not a friend to our Vikings. There were weird (but familiar) bounces, deceptively slippery spots (which players and coaches knew to avoid) and a good chance for at least one mud-fest a year (which generally doesn't hurt when you have a bunch of 300-pound linemen.)

Yes, was a sloppy place to play, but it was our sloppy place to play, and it provided a sort of homefield advantage we're less likely to see come fall.

Greg H July 06, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Football is meant to be played on natural turf. There is no substitute.
Kurt Wehrmeister July 06, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Old buddy, as you know, I'm one of the most throwback sports traditionalists you'll run across. Indeed, I think we could and should have played another 20 years at The One True Burgess Field (the one just south of the high school); there was no legitimate reason to leave there until '94 when Coultrap became an elementary school with need for a playground. But, regarding the 1975 turf of "New" Burgess Field....had you stepped upon it just prior to kickoff of the November 2004 semifinal against Bloomington as I did, I don't think you'd hold the opinion you've expressed here. That Saturday afternoon was a dry day. But after the previous eight weeks of constant use that rainy fall, the turf's consistency, except for perhaps the five yards inside each sideline, was a cross between a muddy, sodden sponge and the coagulated top skin of a strawberry-Jello mold -- in short, try to run or plant on it and you'd immediately fall on your butt. That fall, Rob Wicinski's offense with Alex Pokorny at QB relied heavily on TB Nick Herrera, and the fullback whose name escapes me. But Bloomington emphasized the wideouts; they had speedsters set near the sideline, where the only decent footing was. I maintain that on artificial turf that day, we'd have had a much better shot to go to the '04 state title game. Plus, that fall the GHS Marching Band had to perform more times on the sideline than they did on the field. For this and many more reasons, the FieldTurf makes sense.
Jan July 06, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Will somebody please explain, in terms that make some fiscal sense, just EXACTLY how artificial turf on the high school football field is valuable to taxpayers? It's a football field, people.
Bob McQuillan July 06, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Jan Since the school board members read but don't respond to Patch posts, I'll try to answer your question. In terms of fiscal sense, the turf field is basically a wash over a 12-15 year period. Both fields last about the same time - 12-15 years. The cost to redo a natural field, according to the district, is $500,000. Yearly maintenance costs are between $40-80,000 per year. Yep, that is the range that John Robinson, the ex-facilities manager quoted. A spread of $40,000. So lets figure $500,000 for field and $750,000 (50k per year for 15 years) for maintenance over 15 years. A total of $1.25 million. The turf costs @ $1 million plus yearly maintenance costs of $10,000. For a total of $1.15 million over 15 years. I do believe the Geneva turf will cost closer to 1.2 million to install because of other things being done to the track. There are two key points: are the maintenance costs really going to be $10k per year and you need to pay for the turf now not over 15 years. The taxpayers paid $500,000 (cost of a new field), the boosters collected $45,000 and a mystery donor paid $500,000 for the turf. The argument is that turf can be used by everyone - we'll need to see if that promise pans out.
Brian Bastin July 06, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Rick 4 of the six losses were on turf fields, Rock Island, Morgan Park and Lemont in 2010, and Lake Zurich in 2011. South Elgin is a grass field.
Bob McQuillan July 07, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Cathy you don't seem to realize that the question asked was about the fiscal sense of turf. I answered the question strictly from a financial viewpoint. I didn't say if I was for or against the turf. The district "sold" the community on the fact that the field would be used for PE classes and all sorts of practices by many teams. We will need to see if that promise pans out. Cross country doesn't need a million dollar field to run on nor is it the high profile sport that football is. Unless of course you count the boys and girls teams that have run at the State Championships and the many all-state runners that have worn Geneva jerseys over the last 10 years. While you are at it, why don't you compare the number of Geneva football players versus Geneva cross country runners who have been awarded Division 1 college scholarships.
Jan July 07, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I do not have any kids who attend high school in Geneva. However, apparently my tax dollars are going to refurbish the football field, which is an extracurricular sport.... it's not as if they are talking about the school needing a new boiler, nor air conditioner, or something of that nature.... thus, whatever makes most fiscal sense is what I think should be done. Whatever is used on the field, kids and coaches will adapt. If there was a donor for a large portion of the turf, and it needed doing, then bully for the football team and go for it.
Matt Rodewald July 09, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Jan, West Chicago needed FieldTurf because the school is so landlocked, they needed somewhere to send the kids for gym class. Consider it a new playing surface for extracurricular acitvities, no matter the conditions. Kurt buried the lead. The band never got to touch the field. The Dance team, cheer team too. Soccer games moved away from the big stadium due to poor conditions. Plus don't forget the 8-lane track that will help create opportunities to host state series meets (sectionals). All of this brings in money for various projects. Not just to keep the football engine running. By the way, all the attention to football, brings attention to the community. Casual fans and visitors from other towns tend to eat or shop to kill time. So while you think your tax dollars are going to the football team. The football team brings in more tourism dollars than we probably realize every other Friday night.
Bob McQuillan July 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I think it is a huge stretch to say that any local football team brings tourism dollars to any town. The away team audience tends to park at the field, watch the game, maybe spend a few dollars at the concession stand and go home. I doubt any local business on State or Third Street would say that Friday night football games bring in new people. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching a Geneva High School game as much as anyone but I don't buy into the notion that the regular season games bring in tourism. I'll believe the field will get use by the PE classes, band, etc. when I see it happen.
Jan July 09, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Bob: I agree. As any business owner in the downtown will reiterate, people are destination oriented today. They go where they are going in the car, and then drive back home. Extracurricular shopping or dining, unlike school sports, does not happen. Anyone who makes the argument that visiting sports teams bring spending consumers to the business district needs a reality check.
Cindy Rittenberry July 11, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Can I point out that people should quit using the word "fieldturf" to described artifical fields. Fieldturf is a manufacturer who monopolize the market because people tend to think they are the only company who does artificial turf. In fact, I do not even think that Geneva put their field out to bid, and would only entertain "fieldturf" as a possible product. Wouldn't we all like in our business to be "given" contracts just based on our names!! I liken it to Kleenex, and when you need a tissue, you automatically refer to it as "kleenex" which again is a manufacturer that is being promoted not just a product. I have alot of family paying taxes in Geneva, and would have loved the opportunity to show the School Board and taxpayers an alternatitive product that could of been used for a lower cost, higher quality product than the "fieldturf" field that was installed.
Katie Rose July 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I would just like to say that I go to Geneva High School and I felt that most students did not want turf. Many students and clubs were offended because it is so clearly obvious that the turf is for the football players. Other sports, students, and clubs were not taken into consideration.
Lily October 18, 2012 at 04:55 AM
I feel that the new turf, costing about $1.1 million, and as money saving as it will be in the future was used in the wrong way. It does shows that Geneva can pull together and create fundraisers for what they support, but can I add that millions of children live in poverty and the positive impact that money could have made if not wasted on a artificial turf? Next time Geneva, lets look at the bigger picture of the needy and donate the money to a better and more worth while cause.
Marc Nickels June 13, 2013 at 09:52 AM
Father Ryan sues companies over alleged defective synthetic turf on football field http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/father-ryan-sues-companies-over-alleged-defective-synthetic-turf-football-field

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