MOUNT HOLLY — Rancocas Valley Regional High School may be getting a new artificial turf field and lighting at its stadium, depending on how the school board votes later this month.
At its Nov. 26 meeting, the board is scheduled to consider a project, estimated to cost about $5 million, to install a rubberized six-lane track, multipurpose artificial turf field, concession stand, grandstand, lights and fencing.
At a special meeting Monday, a presentation gave the public a chance to learn about the plans and ask questions. Bill Edwards of Edwards Engineering Group of Somerville, Somerset County, showed renderings and summarized the plans.
School board President Jesse Adams Jr. of Lumberton said the board’s property committee has been working for months on details of the project with Edwards and architect Bob Garrison of Marlton’s Garrison Architects.
Plans are to cover the costs of the project using capital reserve funds. According to information on the district’s website, there is about $7.1 million in capital reserve. That money has accrued over the years and can be used only for capital projects such as facility upgrades.
Funding the project through capital reserve means voters will not be asked to approve a referendum and the board will not need to approve a budget increase, both of which would impact the tax rate.
The impact of lighting on the neighborhood was the major concern raised at the meeting.
Edwards said “state-of-the-art” lighting is aimed at containing most of the illumination on the field. He said the impact on neighboring homes will be within the requirements and, in some cases, not much more than that of moonlight.
“My concern is about the intrusion of the lighting,” said Bernie Broda, who lives near the school. “I understand the lighting is state-of-the-art, but lighting is lighting, no matter how you slice it.”
Broda also was concerned about the impact of sound from night games. A new sound system and press box are part of the project. Superintendent/principal Gerard Jellig said that it is not known how many night games the district would schedule, but that it may be about 15 each in the fall and spring.
“We are desirous of being good neighbors,” Jellig said. The board indicated it would consider a policy to deal with night games.
If the plans are approved, the district likely would have all five of its football team’s home games played Friday night, and have the soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams also use the field. The field likely would be offered for use to youth teams as well.
Susan Taylor of Eastampton urged the board to make sure that all teams “have an equitable opportunity” to use the field.
Also included in the project is improved drainage at the stadium and the relocation of the visitors’ grandstand so it is centered on the field along with the new concession stand. The field would be moved slightly west from where it is now, or farther from the adjacent gymnasium.
Edwards said the proposed turf is a more modern type that does not contain lead or the potential health hazards of prior artificial turf. He said it will need to be maintained, including being watered when it is very hot outside. Maintenance will be less costly than with a natural grass field, he said.
Some members of the public asked for cost estimates for lighting and more information so they can compare the current costs of field maintenance and estimates to maintain an artificial turf field.
Adams said the existing track, which is made of cinder, has drainage and safety issues. Most schools have moved to rubberized tracks, he said.
“I think it’s a great idea whose time has come,” said Dan Breslin of Westampton. “You go to any high school and they have these facilities. I urge you to vote yes for this in a couple of weeks.”
The field also would be used for the district’s physical education program.
If the plan is approved, work is expected to take about four months, Edwards said. Plans likely would call for construction to start by May so it could be done by the 2014-15 school year.
The high school, off Jacksonville Road in Mount Holly, has about 2,200 students from Eastampton, Hainesport, Lumberton, Mount Holly and Westampton.