Even playing field

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The proposed installation of artificil turf on Flesher Field at McNary High School is picking up steam. The long-delayed project is moving forward as supporters amass donations and seek financial grants. They hope that the fall 2015 football team will play on the new turf.

The project, once billed at about $2 million, is to keep up to date with other area high school football fields. The thought seems to be if other teams play on artificial turf at their home fields it is only natural that McNary has it, too.

John Honey, McNary High School principal, adds that artificial turf would allow the school to host other events such as local lacrosse teams and walk-a-thons. He says the field would be usable all year long regardless of weather—no worries of a muddy, rutted field. However, the school district has been notoriously skimpy when it comes to allowing outside groups to use their property.

The McNary Athletic Boosters Club (ABC) is leading the charge on this project and already has more than $100,000 in its coffers for the project. The club will rely on grants and advertising sales to raise what it needs. The club faces a delicate balancing act.

Some observers say that the expense of artificial turf is not worth it. Others in the public may wonder why ‘the school district’ is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a artifical glass while cutting programs.  The ABC will be out soliciting donations at the same time the supporters of the playground project at Keizer Rapids Park will be asking for money for their project.

Spending a million dollars or more on turf that will primarily be used for six or so football games in the fall does seem extravagant. While the money is not slated to come out of the school district’s budget, many in the public will believe it does and that will cause a public relations nightmare for the district.

The ABC and McNary High School will have to address those in the community who are concerned about other programs and students not benefiting from a large project. Where is the project to raise money to improve the audio system in Ken Collins Theatre? Not every student is involved or has an interest in athletics and they’ll want to know why their needs and interests are shortchanged.

Honey said that if a local lacrosse team wants to use the field that club will have to foot the bill to have lacrosse lines added to the field, to the tune of about $20,000. Is this a matter of  “We got ours, now go get yours.” Aside from the important issues of value of the turf and underfunded academics, the supporters will fan out into the business community and ask for donations to help the kids of Keizer with this project. These two major projects threaten to empty the philantropic wallets of Keizer’s generous businesses and residents. If the two projects move forward, what will be left for the smaller organizations that strive to help Keizer’s other demographics? Financial crumbs?

Artifical turf is all well and good but we, as a community, must set priorities that benefit everyone, not just a select few.

  —LAZ

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