League of California Cities

Grass Valley City and School District Partner to Bring Year-Round Turf Sports Field to Community

20200211_113902-(2).jpgYears of drought have taken their toll on many of Grass Valley’s sports fields at schools and parks.

“We would run during P.E. and we would twist our ankles on the potholes and have to jump over the tree roots. It was really bad.” That’s how Lyman Gilmore Middle School eighth grader Ellee Miller described her previous sports field. 

The school children weren’t the only ones complaining.

“For the last few years, we’ve had a group of soccer parents – moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas – coming to our city council meetings begging for better soccer fields in Grass Valley,” explained Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout. “So our city manager came up with an idea to provide better facilities for both the school and city soccer programs.”

The city proposed a one-cent sales tax that voters passed in June 2018. Funds were earmarked for police, fire, road improvements, and parks. The first project? A partnership with the Grass Valley School District for a $1.5 million all-season 84,000-square-foot all-weather sports field.

“This is something the community really wanted to see and partnering with the school district, it’s a win-win,” said Grass Valley City Manager Tim Kiser.

When Kiser approached Grass Valley School District Superintendent Eric Fredrickson with the idea of building a field through a joint use agreement, it wasn’t a hard sell.

IMG_9687.JPG“There are substantial costs and maintenance to keep up natural fields,” Fredrickson said. “It costs a lot to water and when we had the last drought, we didn’t even water it and our fields became something the kids couldn’t use all the time.”

Construction of the synthetic turf field began in July 2019 at the Lyman Gilmore Middle School in Grass Valley and has been in use by students and the community for the last couple of months. More than 1,100 children play on the field as part of the youth soccer and lacrosse leagues after school and on weekends and close to 700 students from the middle school and a nearby elementary school use the field for physical education and team sports during the week.

Bjorn Jones is the assistant city engineer for Grass Valley and also a local soccer coach.

“With this field, the maintenance is next to nothing. You have a perfect surface year-round and it’s just going to be a game changer for the whole soccer club and the whole community.”

The students agree.

Kaylee Lunsford is a seventh grader at Lyman Gilmore Middle School. She is currently playing Ultimate Frisbee during physical education.

“It doesn’t hurt as bad when you fall onto this field,” Lunsford said. “And it’s so much easier to run on!”
School officials appreciate the opportunity to partner with the city on the 25-year joint use agreement, noting they could have never afforded to fund the field on their own.

IMG_9685.JPG“I appreciate what can happen when a city reaches out to another entity,” Fredrickson said. “A lot of times we work in isolation and with this, we have set an example for our community about how to best use tax dollars, and our community is able to see just how well those tax dollars are working.”
The city agrees this has been a great joint effort, but not just with the school district. The mayor praised the citizens of Grass Valley for making it all possible by voting for Measure E in 2018.

“In a community like this where you need to share to get things done, it really has been a great partnership,” said Swarthout.

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