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Turf Football Fields: A multi-million dollar plan falls short

Posted at 9:00 AM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 00:07:21-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- With a blanket of winter snow, the football fields at Green Bay high schools look the same, but the surfaces under the snow are different at East, West, Southwest, and Preble high schools.

The Preble and West fields are natural grass; the East and Southwest fields are synthetic turf.

The goal at Preble is to change that.

“We need a turf,” said Jeffrey Bowers, president of the Preble football booster club.

“For the size of the school and the amount that it takes in impact, we need a turf."

At least twenty schools in northeast Wisconsin have synthetic turf fields, according to information from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.

The Green Bay Area Public School District announced a plan in 2016 to have turf installed at East, West, and Preble by fall of 2017, and pay the balance of Southwest’s 2015 turf installation.

The plan, between GBAPS and Huterra, called for the raising of $3.39 million, with Huterra to receive a fee of 5 percent of funds raised, records show.

Instead, the District received a bit more than $100,000, records show.

Asked about the difference, Huterra CEO Allan Zeise said the plan was scrapped, with the district having called it off.

Zeise said he accounted for nearly $300,000 in fundraising for the synthetic turf project at East High School, which was installed in 2017. The cost of that turf project was approximately $850,000, with contributions coming from a variety of sources, records show.

An outside attorney released the following statement from the District:

“GBAPS remains committed to encouraging fundraising for the benefit of its High Schools’ stadium facilities. GBAPS’ termination of an Agreement with HuTerra, LLC was not a reflection of a change in plans regarding fundraising, but was instead a decision to no longer work with HuTerra for other reasons.
“Conversion to synthetic turf at one High School is complicated by issues involving City ownership of the field. Two out of the three remaining High Schools have synthetic turf fields, and fundraising for the conversion of turf at the third High School stadium is underway.”

The District filed a lawsuit against Huterra and the Huterra Foundation; the lawsuit states that the District is still owed $20,000, which Huterra and the Huterra Foundation denied in a court filing.

What’s next

The Preble Pride Stadium Project website states turf can be used more often than grass, noting weather and maintenance.

Current fundraising for the project, which calls for a synthetic turf and new track, stands at approximately $230,000 out of a $1.2 million goal, according to the project’s website.

"Millions are hard to come by, especially when you're selling baked goods, hot dogs, and burgers,” said Jeffreys, the booster club president.

“It just doesn't add up that quickly."

His hope is that alumni will be able to contribute to the project.

Asked about a goal date, Jeffreys said, “The sooner the better.”

Click here for more information on the Preble Pride Stadium Project.