Artificial turf proves beneficial to schools

The Cobb school system has benefited from three special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) votes that have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars to improve and build new schools.

We are currently under what’s known as SPLOST III, and as with previous SPLOSTs, this one had its own bit of controversy attached. Even though voters approved SPLOST III in Sept. 2008, knowing that one of the projects was the replacement of grass athletic fields at Cobb’s 16 high schools with artificial turf, some people didn’t believe this was an appropriate use of SPLOST funds and filed suit in Feb. 2010 to halt the project.

This was not unlike a previous spat with former superintendent Joseph Redden in 2005, where he generated the idea to provide laptops to all students and teachers in grades 6-12 using SPLOST money. The language presented to the voters did not provide “fair notice” that all students and teachers were to receive laptops and a judge stopped the effort.

In the end, Redden and a lesson was learned: explain to the voters exactly what they’re voting on and trouble can be avoided.

The voters in 2008 knew exactly what was being voted on and the lawsuit to stop artificial turf at high school athletic fields was dismissed in April 2010.

The installation of artificial turf on Cobb’s high school football fields began shortly after the judge gave the go-ahead. Many schools were looking forward to having multi-use fields. The bid to install the fields was won by Cobb-based Deluxe Athletics for $9.3 million. This included installation cost and maintenance for eight years.

The immediate benefit to having artificial turf replace grass fields is the savings in water use, pesticides fertilizer and mowing. During the first year when nine fields had been installed, Cobb’s school system saw a 14 percent decrease in its irrigation bill. In July and August 2012 after all fields had been installed, the system realized a 28 percent reduction in the water bill.

Schools spokesman Jay Dillon told me in an email of another big benefit. He wrote, “One of the most significant improvements the schools have observed is that the fields are now open to a much wider range of use throughout the day.”

This is echoed by Walton High School football coach, Rocky Hidalgo. Coach Hidalgo told me his field is used during every period of the day now for physical education classes. The band uses it, soccer teams use it, and no football games have to be cancelled because of rain. “The installation has been a tremendous investment by Cobb County – every area of our school has been improved,” he said.

More use, less cost. Sounds like a winner to me.

Craig Allen has lived in Cobb County for 10 years. Reach him at