Board ponders options for athletic fields

The New Prague Area School Board heard a report on possible improvements to its athletic facilities during its meeting Monday, Jan. 28.

Vaughan Diercks of Wold Architects gave a presentation on various options to upgrade Trojan Field, expand the available space for practice fields and improve facilities for soccer.

The main issue facing the district is needed improvements to the existing football and track facilities. The field was first used in 1978 and has several issues, the biggest one being the track surrounding the field. The present track is in need of replacement and the base underneath it is failing. In addition, the track is an “oldstyle” track, with longer straightaways and sharper curves than newer tracks. In addition, there are eight light standards located inside the track, making it unusable for soccer.

He said the district could use the identical layout for a new track. While that would not be optimal, if the light standards were moved outside the track, it would be usable for soccer and possibly in the future, lacrosse. They could also go with a wider track layout, which would involve moving the bleachers on the visitors side back.

Also under consideration is purchase and development of 40 acres east of the high school for additional baseball, softball and soccer fields.

Diercks said after looking at the options, he had four alternatives to present to the district.

• Replace the current track as is, without moving the light standards, and improving drainage to the field. The cost would be approximately $760,000, but would not address the needs for soccer or additional practice fields.

• Use the same track layout, but remove the light standards and install a synthetic playing surface. While the soccer field would not be a regulation field, it would be acceptable under MSHSL standards. He said with newer lighting, only four light standards would be needed. Cost of this plan would be about $1.2 million and would address the need for a soccer game field. It would also alleviate some, but not all of the need for additional practice space.

• Use a wider track, lights and synthetic playing surface, which would require some additional excavation and moving bleachers on the east (visitors) side back a distance. Cost would be $2.4 million.

• A plan similar to the third one, but with a standard track configuration, called a “broken back” would cost $2.7 million.

One issue the district wants to address is the need for a lighted soccer field with permanent bleachers. Diercks said the first option would require a separate field for soccer. Improving the present game field with lights and permanent bleachers would cost between $500,000 and $600,000. A new competition soccer field with lights and bleachers would cost between $900,000 to $1 million.

Diercks also added that development cost for athletic fields in the 40 acres east of the high school would be about $2.5 million, not including the cost of acquiring the land. Finally, it was noted that the current press box at Trojan Field needs to be replaced, he said a prefabricated unit for the press box would cost about $75,000.

Board member Jerry Walerius asked about the cost of maintaining the synthetic turf and how often it would need to be replaced. Diercks said he didn’t have the maintenance costs, but that the turf would need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. He added that the biggest initial cost in installing the turf is setting up drainage, and that would not need to be repeated.

Board member Dennis Havlicek asked about artificial turf fields in other districts. Superintendent Kauzlarich said that four of the eight schools in the Missota Conference (Chaska, Chanhassen, Farmington and Holy Angels) have artificial turf fields. Many roll the costs of the field into other building projects. Lakeville North’s artificial turf, for instance, was installed as part of the Lakeville South building project.

“More districts are going to it as demand increases for the use of fields,” Kauzlarich added.

Board members will look at the alternatives and get input from coaches and athletic groups. Kauzlarich said there is also some interest on the part of the city to work together with the district on the issue.