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One turf decision to make
by Bill Clough
Jul 24, 2014 | 530 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – Coastal Bend College trustees last Wednesday took exactly two hours to approve the financing, the contract and the type of turf for CBC’s new stadium.

The regular monthly meeting began with public comment from KYKO General Manager Bebe Adamez, who told the board that deciding on artificial turf for the stadium would favorably affect both Beeville and the county. An hour later, the board would debate the turf issue for almost an hour.

The first order of stadium business, however, was to pay for it.

Last month, the board asked Frost Bank to put out bids for $1.5 million in maintenance tax notes to help fund the $2.5 million project.

Duncan Morrow, Frost Bank vice president from San Antonio, reported to the board that the bank had received only one bid, from Chase Bank, which offered three interest rates depending on the payback time.

Trustees unanimously approved the lowest rate, of 2.51 percent, requiring an interest payment of $214,889, with a stipulation of no early payoff.

“It’s not unusual to get only one bidder,” Morrow said later. “You could call for bids tomorrow and get a dozen returns. It just depends on the market, But, a lot of financial business in South Texas,” he admitted, “are worried about CBC’s dropping enrollment.”

Once financing was arranged, the board then awarded the design and construction of the stadium to T. F. Harper and Associates in Austin, following recommendations from CBC President Dr. Beatriz Espinoza and CBC Job Superintendent Chuck McCameron, who favored the Harper bid over one submitted by the Hellas Construction Co. — also of Austin — which the two felt was incomplete.

Which turf to order demanded almost an hour of debate.

McCameron told the trustees that he favored artificial turf, citing extensive research from the International Organization for Standardization (IOS), which claims to be the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and has conducted independent research internationally since 1947.

“With natural turf, we would use almost five million gallons of water to irrigate the field,” McCameron said, “and that’s a conservative estimate.”

The same research, he said, shows that the use of artificial turf on a baseball field saves one billion gallons of pesticide annually.

In addition, synthetic fields, he said, can be used 24/7 and for all sorts of activities besides baseball.

“And no trouble with gophers,” Trustee Martha Warner noted.

“Or, any stickers in the outfield,” someone in the audience said.

Board chair Carroll Lohse said that when discussions first started about a stadium, he favored natural grass because it was cheaper than artificial turf, but had since changed his mind.

For grass, he said, an additional grounds keeper would have to be hired. That, along with higher maintenance, fertilizer, pesticides and the fact that the field only could be used for baseball had convinced him the $600,000 higher initial cost of artificial turf was justified.

McCameron, citing the IOS study, said “It’s pure economics. Among the major findings was that the average life cycle costs over 20 years of a natural grass field are 15 percent higher than ... synthetic turf.”

“What about heat?” Warner asked.

McCameron said that early versions of artificial turf had a heat problem, but the proposed turf for the new stadium was this generation, which has almost negated the problem.

One bad year can ruin a grass field, he said, “and with the water situation being what it is, we will start seeing more use of artificial turf.”

“What about injuries?” Warner asked, recalling higher injuries attributed to synthetic turf when it first came into use.

The IOS study concluded the risk of injury on artificial turf was no higher than on grass.

While the argument for artificial turf seemed conclusive, Trustees Bryce Carrillo and Jeff Massengill disagreed.

“The thing that has concerned me from the get-go on this project,” Carrillo said, “is that we’ve heard a lot of people out there,” he said, looking over the desk. “Now, how about some of us sitting up here?

“I feel the board has been presented only one side of the argument, only hearing from the artificial turf guys. I really wish we could hear more from the natural turf guys.”

He said his own research “would contradict what was presented today. For every study that’s presented here, I can find another study that says just the opposite.”

“Over a 12-16-year time span, the costs for an artificial field exceed that of a natural field,” he said. “There’s replacement costs, there’s disposal costs. We’d do a lot better for the college by a top-quality sod and a good sprinkler system.

“In the past, the college did not provide adequate manpower or adequate funding.”

“I’d say that having read some of your research,” Massengill said, “I concur.”

He cited concerns over the disposal of damaged artificial turf. “This stuff is like getting rid of tires. And, it’s still going to take new equipment to maintain the turf.”

Carrillo said the national trend in major league baseball has been away from artificial turf. It’s preferred by the fans and by the players. “Only two pro teams still play on artificial turf: Tampa Bay and the Toronto Bluejays. Everybody else that has built a new stadium has gone to natural turf.”

“You can find research to support almost anything,” McCameron countered.

Trustee Laura Fischer said the difference in cost could depend on renting the facility to other venues, suggesting the board should appoint someone to attract revenue-generating groups.

The board approved installing artificial turf by a 4-2 vote.

Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.
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