Long winter's impact on spring sports revives turf field discussion

- The unseasonably cold and wet spring has renewed a new push by some parents and teams to install turf fields throughout school facilities.

With the fields still too wet from the late spring blizzard, the Anoka High School softball team took to the parking lot to get their practice in Monday afternoon. The players were just happy to be outside for once.

"Throughout my high school years, this is the latest we’ve had to wait—so it’s been a bummer,” said Gina Wilson, a senior on the team.

Last week, the team had to play three games in one day at a nearby dome just to keep up with the schedule. Having artificial turf to practice and play on would be a nice advantage.

“We would be ahead of the game with fielding and working out some of the fielding mechanics and kinks that we have," said Head Coach Anoka Softball Toni Jesinoski.

Because of how late winter stuck around this year, there are revived discussions by parents and coaches in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the state's biggest district, over building turf fields. It would come at a hefty price tag, potentially $10 million for each school to have one.

Several schools, like Edina, have had turf fields for years. A recent task force in the Anoka-Hennepin district studied the issue and determined it wasn't necessary right now.

"They had to prioritize our needs—we are adding some gym spaces as part of our $249 million referendum, but turf fields didn’t make the cut,” said Chuck Holden, Chief Operations Office of Anoka-Hennepin Schools.

Parents of kids affected by this spring's unpredictable weather are learning to adjust. They say they are on the fence when it comes to where their tax dollars go.

“I’m a big sports guy, so I see the value in it but at the same time—taxes going up all the time for sports—I can see how people don’t want it,” said Brent Owens, a parent.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, some members told Fox 9 they are open to exploring this idea more or there could be ways to find some extra money to start setting aside. In the meantime, they are experimenting with different methods of treating the fields so they can hold up to the extreme weather better.

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