Time for turf?

CVU ponders rexamination of field rennovations
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 10:02 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) -A litany of postponements, relocations, and time changes dampered the opening day of the Fall high school playoffs on Tuesday: Vergennes boys soccer had to play at Mt. Abe, Harwood’s girls were one of a number of teams pushed to Wednesday afternoon, and the CVU boys had to deal with both a time and location change.

Instead of their regularly-scheduled 3 p.m. home tilt with #14 Spaulding in the boys soccer D1 playdowns, #3 CVU instead “hosted” the Tide in an 8 p.m. kickoff on the turf at South Burlington’s Munson Field. The Redhawks have different fields for pretty much all their sports teams, but they somewhat regularly become unusable when it rains.

“Well it’s unfortunately the nature of the beast with our clay-based fields and the weather that a lot of times happens in October,” said CVU athletic director Dan Shepardson. “We run into situations where our fields just aren’t playable.”

CVU’s athletic department is unquestionably one of the most successful in the state. They have one of the biggest student populations in Vermont. But what they don’t have is a single turf field to help mitigate the effects Vermont’s climate can have on those clay fields in Hinesburg.

“It’s really the only thing that our facility and our community really needs to complete what is just an outstanding complex at CVU,” Shepardson said.

The school has been trying for years to change this, but they’ve run into several problems along the way.

“I’m gonna say 8 years ago, there was a bond vote, it actually went down twice by 100 votes each time, for a turf field,” Shepardson said. “About the time the conversation was being resurrected, our district made the decision to merge the budgets. So we went from having each of the four towns that feed CVU plus the CVU budget merging to one, consolidated budget. There was real concern everybody had what the impact that was gonna have on their tax bill. We were just starting to have the conversation again because people realized what the implications of the merge were on their taxes when COVID hit.”

The Redhawks are somewhat lucky: their closest neighbor does have turf and has regularly been willing to share it. CVU boys soccer and Rice football are just two teams that have played home games at SBHS in recent years. Stowe’s boys soccer team added their name to that list Wednesday as they traveled nearly an hour to “host” the Green Knights. Shepardson says he appreciates South Burlington’s help, but believes its time his community circled back on the turf discussion

“I think the time is right for the conversation,” he said. “We’ve got a new superintendent who has indicated an interest. And finding out what happened before and he wants to have a five-year vision for everything within the district. And I think this is potentially on the table as part of that five-year plan. Where it happens in those five-years, if it happens, obviously remains to be seen but yeah, I’d like to think it’ll happen in the near future.”

A cursory overview revealed just five high schools in the state of Vermont with a turf field on campus: Burlington (on Institute Road rather than downtown), Rutland, Burr and Burton, and St. Johnsbury (who just installed one this Summer) in addition to South Burlington. The biggest reason for that is likely the price tag, as Shepardson estimates a turf field at CVU would cost well north of a million dollars.

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