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CCSD will spend nearly $300M converting sports fields to turf

Updated February 13, 2023 - 4:34 pm

The Clark County School District plans to spend nearly $300 million over the next six years converting more high school sports fields to artificial turf.

The project will include 9 million square feet of fields — primarily, soccer, baseball and softball — at fewer than 40 schools. Work is expected to begin in the summer or fall.

School district officials say the project will improve field conditions and save an estimated 500 million gallons of water each year.

Superintendent Jesus Jara announced the estimated $290 million project during his State of the Schools address in late January.

“We are partners in this community,” he said. “We understand the water crisis.”

The school district already converted 29 natural grass high school football fields to artificial turf, a project that cost approximately $60 million.

Work on that project began in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic — when students were distance learning and not on campus — and was completed in 2021.

‘Sense of urgency’

Mark Campbell, interim chief of facilities for the school district, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that there’s a constantly challenging water environment and “sense of urgency” for the district to conserve water as a partner in the community.

The West has faced more than 20 years of drought conditions and chronic water overuse. Seven states, including Nevada, rely on water from the Colorado River and proposals on how to cut back usage have been sent to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The school district plans to pay for its new turf project using a couple of funding sources, including a bond reserve fund. Rebates from the Southern Nevada Water Authority will go back into that same fund, Campbell said.

The expectation is that the district will receive a little less than $30 million in rebates — about 10 percent of the total project cost, he said.

But an interlocal agreement with the Southern Nevada Water Authority hasn’t been signed yet, Campbell said, and an agenda item about the project also will need to come before the School Board for approval.

Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said that conservatively, the school district likely will receive a rebate “somewhere north of $10 million.”

By converting football fields to artificial turf, evaluating its evaporative cooling systems, being responsive to irrigation issues and identifying ways to continue reducing water use in schools, the school district has been an “outstanding partner” in water conservation, Mack said.

He called it exciting to see the district take on more conservation measures, such as converting additional fields and replacing non-functional grass.

“The Clark County School District has really demonstrated leadership in the world of local water conservation,” Mack said.

Prioritizing fields with the most need

The district has completed a detailed assessment of high school fields and will prioritize those with the most need for the new turf project, Campbell said.

Rosemary Zuniga, the girls soccer coach at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, said turf fields will look better and be more level.

“The fields we have now have bumps everywhere and holes,” she said, adding that the grass is also dead in certain areas from sprinklers not working.

Her team practices on a grass field, but games are held on the football field under the lights.

Zuniga said she has heard rumors about the turf project but no timeline for when the work will take place.

The only downfall is that many schools, including Cimarron-Memorial, don’t have lights for their soccer fields, she said.

If students are playing games on those fields without lights, it could mean shorter games, she said, noting that would be detrimental, particularly for junior varsity teams.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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