Nine years ago, the District 208 Board of Education made the decision to replace the grass football field with one of artificial turf. Although they suggested at that time that this would provide a cost saving, it is obvious to those who have looked into the issue that artificial turf is more expensive than the cost and maintenance of real turf.
The great advantage of artificial turf is that it allows continuous usage, except when the field is covered with snow. This is a benefit to the RB soccer teams and football team. To many, this makes the extra cost of the million dollar field worthwhile, but there is more to this issue.
The board has also seen clear to rent the field to various businesses of its choosing. This includes the Chicago Mustang semipro team, which in late summer and fall practice twice per week and plays some games there. This causes wear and tear to the field that shortens its life.
To those in the hundred or so homes in the neighborhood, this creates noise, excess light in the evenings and most importantly excess traffic. And what do the District 208 residents as a whole get in exchange for this?
In school year 2012-13, for which the Board has supplied an annotated ledger, $19,014 dollars (for rental to non-RBHS for-profit and school groups). And $7,610 of that went to usage of the field house and stadium, so the actual rental fees for the stadium may be as low as $11,404.
Both the $19,014 and the $11,404 figures are gross profit and do not cover electricity for lights, labor costs, and increased insurance costs, which likely translates to a loss. The Chicago Mustangs have put hundreds of hours of use on the field and pay only $5,416 each year for that privilege.
Just $19,014 in gross rental fees per year for a field that cost $1 million nine years ago, and requires additional maintenance costs, is nothing. District 208 and its citizens are losing money on this deal.
What is more alarming is that the Board or Education seeks to build a parking lot next to the field to apparently increase usage of the field and other facilities to non-RBHS groups, which will result in greater losses in revenue and in field life.
I believe that allowing organizations to lease the field, organizations that do not promote the athletics of the high school or the feeder schools, should not be a decision made by the superintendent or the board of education. Taxpayers that live in the five or so blocks west and south of the school should also have a say in these matters.