While the committee formed in October to study the feasibility of installing artificial turf at the Great Bend Sports Complex sees value in the change, it determined now is not the time for the costly project.
That was the summary presented to the City Council Monday night by City Administrator Kendal Francis. The committee met twice and members soon realized there are much broader, more pressing issues facing the city’s beleaguered recreational facilities that call for a long-range, multi-year master plan.
“They determined that turf is not a top priority at this time,” Francis said. The committee did stress the importance of developing a comprehensive plan as soon as possible that would include ways to pay for needed improvements.
“Quite honestly, the city has dropped the ball on maintenance on some of our facilities and we need to get them up to par and those will be our first focuses,” Francis said. In addition to turf, he mentioned the need to replace the lighting at Veterans Memorial Park fields and other expensive projects.
The committee included City Clerk Shawna Schafer, council members Jolene Biggs and Cory Urban, USD 428 Superintendent Kris Thexton, Great Bend Recreation Commission Assistant Director Chris Umphres and community representative Shawn Behr. Members wanted the turf wrapped up in the to-be-developed master plan.
“That’s what we need to determine, whether it be three years or five years,” Francis said, adding many of these will require large capital expenditures. “The city staff has started looking at a master plan for all of the facilities.”
The issue dates back to August when Mike Minton of the Great Bend Bombers youth baseball organization urged the city to install artificial turf at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The goal would be to make the city more competitive in attracting tournaments to town, while providing safer fields that are less susceptible to having games rained out.
Minton and other turf supporters at the Aug. 21 meeting praised the city’s vision for developing the complex. Opening in 2012, it has served the community well.
But, now it needs upgrades to serve local ballplayers of all levels and remain in the hunt for out-of-town team tourneys, they said.
However, city officials said they would had to study the issue and get commitments from the Great Bend Recreation Commission and USD 428. This led to the formation of the committee.
The complex was initially designed for grass fields. It would have to be redesigned for turf, which could be used on just the infield, infield and outfield, on the pitchers mound or other options.
Turf can last 10-15 years but the actual lifespan is hard to determine and depends of use. Discussions to this point have not included the cost of the turf.