The Lafayette Parish School Board plans to invest in new grass and repairs to football fields at three of its high schools this summer.
The board’s Facilities Committee recommended the board approve the projects at Acadiana, Carencro and Comeaux high schools — the only three high schools that haven’t had new fieldwork in 20 years or longer.
Facilities staff soon will seek cost proposals from contractors for the work, which could begin this summer, said Kyle Bordelon, acting chief operations officer and facilities director for the school system.
Refurbishing a field involves removing the existing grass and reshaping the field so it drains properly, Bordelon explained.
The process of ensuring the field drains properly is called creating a turtle-back because of the way the field appears with a high crown in its center with a gentle slope to the sidelines.
“Once that’s done, they come in and plant a hybrid Bermuda grass,” Bordelon said.
The last field refurbished in the school district was Northside High, a project that cost about $23,000 and involved a new sprinkler system, he said.
The field at Acadiana High is about 40 years old, said Principal David LeJeune.
Acadiana High’s football coach, Ted Davidson, and his staff care for the field — watering, fertilizing and mowing it — but it now needs professional intervention, LeJeune said.
“It’s basically at the point where it needs to be professionally done,” LeJeune said. “We’re at the point where we can’t take care of it the way it needs to be taken care of for safety reasons.”
The state of the field hasn’t impacted the Acadiana High Wreckin’ Rams football team’s performance. The team defended its state football championship in December and won its fourth championship title for the team.
For more than 20 years, School Board member Britt Latiolais has been the “Voice of the Wreckin’ Rams” and has seen firsthand the condition of the field. While coaches have worked to maintain the fields, it’s been decades since the fields have been refurbished, he said. Latiolais, a member of the School Board’s Facilities Committee, proposed the projects after input with principals and athletic coaches at the schools.
“The main reason is the safety of the students and the liability to the parish,” Latiolais said. “It is overdue. It’s long overdue.”
Ideally, fields should be refurbished every 10 years, but that’s a cost schools can’t afford to cover, said Bobby Badeaux, the school system’s athletic director.
The schools’ fields sit on property that was farmland, he said.
“You get depressions and divots and those things that you have to maintain,” Badeaux said. “At some point, you have to look at if you’re going to start over or rebuild the field. That’s the process we’re in right now.”
Improvements to grass have been made that make it easier to maintain the integrity of a field, he said.
“Probably the original fields were just normal Louisiana St. Augustine grass,” Badeaux said. “Now you have grasses that are hybrids with better root systems and they hold together better and hold the field better.”
Facilities Committee Chairman Jeremy Hidalgo said he visited the fields and compared them to the field at Lafayette High, which was more recently refurbished.
“We’re concerned about liability after looking at the fields,” Hidalgo said. “After looking at the condition, it was a no-brainer for me to put my name behind (a recommendation).”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.