You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Officials look to install synthetic turf at Skyline High School practice field

By Danielle Arndt

View Larger Map

Installing synthetic turf at Skyline High School's north practice field will bring the newest Ann Arbor high school's athletic facilities in line with Huron and Pioneer, school officials said Wednesday.

The field is located inside of the track, close to North Maple Road, and most often is used for lacrosse, soccer and some football practices, officials said.

Huron and Pioneer high schools already have two artificial grass fields. The new turf at Skyline would bring the totals to 2-2-2, as Skyline's primary football stadium currently has synthetic turf.

The upgrade to the practice field will cost $858,056 and will be paid for with the district's sinking fund money.

Voters in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district approved a $255 million comprehensive school improvement bond and sinking fund millage in 2004. Residents renewed the millage in 2008. It's set to expire in 2014.

Ann Arbor's sinking fund levies 1 mill and allows the district to spend taxpayers' money as it is collected, unlike a bond millage, which involves the district borrowing the full amount of the bond upfront from a third-party lender.


The outside of Skyline High School.

Per state law, sinking fund dollars can be used for the purchase of real estate, construction projects or building repairs. Sinking fund money cannot be used for operational, transportation or technology costs, all of which must be funded through the general fund.

The Ann Arbor school district is facing a $17 million to $20 million general fund deficit for the 2013-14 academic year.

Executive Director of Physical Properties Randy Trent brought the artificial turf proposal before the Board of Education at its regular meeting Wednesday night for a first briefing. It will return as a second briefing on the board's agenda Feb. 27. The board is expected to take action on the proposal at that time.

Trent said the synthetic turf has a number of safety and use benefits. It has bounce and give, unlike dirt and grass, which can become extremely hard and worn down after being played on all spring and fall when grass typically grows, he said.

The artificial turf also has built-in drainage technology underneath the surface that allows water to drain quickly and not saturate the playing field, Trent said. He added this permits play to continue in light rain, unless it's an "absolute downpour" or there is lightening.

The turf, pending board approval, would be installed during the summer to be ready in time for the fall sports season.

Trent said he brought the synthetic turf proposal to the board early because it's a very public project and there was a lot of press when Pioneer's practice field received artificial turf in 2011. Trustee Glenn Nelson thanked Trent for recognizing this, stressing he wants the public to know that it would be illegal to move sinking fund dollars into the general fund to help pay for teachers, transportation and other operational expenses.

"We need to work on bringing that message to people," Nelson said.

Superintendent Patricia Green added the district could erect some type of sign at the site of the project to help raise awareness during the installation process as well.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Joe Kidd

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

Classrooms around Washtenaw county have modern projectors that can project from a book, play a movie and other media from the menu. Ann Arbor school classrooms have overhead projectors that require pages printed on clear plastic that was a modern teaching gizmo in the 1970s. Something is out of whack here. They need a sinking fund for academics more than football.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.

LOL - We lay off teachers for lack of funds, but hire coaches for football teams and put new turf on fields that are used a few games a year. The priorities are perfect in AAPS, just perfect!


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

Apparently, the planning of Skyline didn't take into account anything from the other high schools in town. I am surprised this wasn't done at the beginning.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

JB, I believe the artificial turf at the practice fields at Huron and Pioneer are fairly new as well, and were installed after Skyline was built. I know Pioneer's practice field got synthetic turf in 2011. I'm not sure when the turf was put in at Huron, but I believe sinking fund money was used in this instance as well, which would mean it would have been after 2008, when Skyline opened its doors.

An Arborigine

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

Gosh, I'd hate to think Skyline would have a home field disadvantage! Something is stinking about this sinking fund, these are tax dollars. How about a generous private funding option?


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

I always find it funny when we have to close schools (Roberto Clemente and Stone School) so we can help the "greater good" (of schools) in buying newer computers because 2009 or 10 computers are simply not good enough and though this school was just built and should've had turf in the first place its okay; simply just use the 'Sinking fund'.

Brian Kuehn

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

In San Antonio they built one large, centrally located football/soccer field stadium. All the high schools share the facility. Home games vary as to time so as to maximize the use (Friday night, Saturday morning or afternoon). Each school has its own practice facility This approach, while not perfect, probably freed up money for educational facilities. Perhaps that model was examined and rejected when Skyline was built. Too late now. It would be nice to see the School Board actually demonstrate some "outside the box" thinking. The last big experiment seems to have been Community High.

Brian Kuehn

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

Kyle, you are correct that the limited number of Friday evenings would certainly force a change. Presumably playing on Saturday afternoon (when U of M is out of town) would not be too much of an issue. Or play Saturday mornings. Plus, Huron, Skyline and Pioneer would play each other so each team would have at least 4 Friday evening games. The point is that we too often insist on doing things exactly the way we have always done them. That was fine in the days when our schools were not burdened with the severe budget issues they now say they face. True, the traditional Friday night game at the home field would no longer be possible for every home game. The inconvenience of playing Saturday, however, might save a bucket full of money. It seems to me that looking down the road, we can get more bang for our educational tax buck by sharing facilities, especially athletic facilities. A lot of money is still going into our interscholastic athletic programs that might be better spent on educational activities or intramural sports.

Kyle Austin

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

I agree that it's a good idea in concept but the number of sports has grown too large for it to be feasible. Plus with three high schools playing a nine-game regular season, each could only have three Friday night dates per fall.

Brian Kuehn

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

Jim, thanks for the thoughtful response. I think creative scheduling and shared athletic facilities makes sense. As you pointed out, this approach is used elsewhere in Michigan and was at one point in Ann Arbor. Building a full set of athletic facilities at each high school does not seem like the most efficient use of a limited amount of money.

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

The "central" field is used in the Plymouth / Canton / Salem district - Jackson HS and Lumen Christi use the same football stadium; Ann Arbor used Holloway Field (Pioneer) for both Pioneer and Huron until the volume of fall sports (football, soccer, field hockey) using Holloway made it attractive to build the field at Huron. Part of the issue is that many large Michigan high schools don't have "football" stadiums - they have soccer (men), field hockey, football in the fall and soccer (women) and lacrosse in the spring - and sometimes track & field (Huron has the track, Pioneer and Skyline do not);

Geoff Larcom

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

This is a worthwhile move. I've walked Leela, the gentle golden retriever, around this area many times, and the practice fields are pretty dang ragged, simply due to the topography. @Kellie Woodhouse: Yes, U-M did change fields. The high-end grass was simply too difficult to manage, given drainage challenges in that low area. It was a mess some games. Much better with the present turf. The original change back to grass was because the old Tartan Turf, installed in the late 1960s, was wearing out, and was absurdly hard, as I recall.

Kellie Woodhouse

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

At Michigan Stadium, officials have been back and forth about using sod or artificial turf for decades. In the late sixties, they put in artificial turf but returned to grass in the early 1990s (at the tune of more than $2M) and then in 2003 went back to artificial, which cost $620,000. I am surprised the practice field will cost nearly $240,000 more to install than Michigan Stadium turf-- inflation, material? One thing is clear, changing these surfaces is an enormous expense.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

Hmm, I am now curious about the cost difference as well. Thanks for this information! Astroturf's $858,056 price tag was said to be the low bid at last night's meeting. The bid materials also stated Astroturf's product is the only field that has the antimicrobial product applied at the factory as standard. This was said to be a value because the district will not have to apply the antimicrobial every year as with other fields. This product also has a full 8-year warranty. Astroturf has installed a number of other fields in the district and has a local representative dedicated to AAPS when needed. ... Just to throw in some additional information about the bid.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

I think having a grass practice field is an advantage. If a team is playing against another team on a grass field, then they can practice on grass. There's a huge difference between how a ball rolls on grass versus synthetic turf. If a team only practices on synthetic turf, and then competes on grass, they are at a disadvantage.

Dog Guy

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

How convenient that AAPS has "buckets" of sinking fund millage which cannot be poured on the educational-gap fires inside the schools. The board's only concern is that carpeting the infield will be visible to taxpayers having their own sinking fund problems. But, hey, this is for our children. Rah! Rah! Rah!

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Since Huron and Pioneer each have two "turf" fields, this was probably only a matter of time. It seems to make a lot of sense for Huron and Skyline since they appear to be "hemmed in" with limited property. It is interesting that the planetarium project ($65,000) appeared to require an outside sponsor (Argus IMRA) for their upgrade - perhaps it did not qualify for the "sinking fund" monies. A nice touch at Skyline would be to have locker rooms for home and visitors at the main field, but given the "bowl" layout that is probably too expensive.