Vail’s proposed budget for 2022 has a number of expensive items, many of which won’t be obvious to residents or visitors. But any of these items will see a lot of use.
The city’s proposed budget for next year includes a $1 million project for a new building for restrooms and equipment storage. The draft budget also contains a line item of $1.5 million for the installation of artificial turf to replace natural grass on the city’s soccer fields. These fields are owned by the city and operated by the Vail Recreation District.
Vail’s Director of Financial Services, Carlie Smith, explained the plan to Vail City Council at that council’s Sept. 21 meeting.
Smith said artificial turf could be an advantage for event production, especially at the start and end of the winter season.
City council is expected to vote on the budget ordinance for the first time at its Oct. 5 meeting. If the project is funded, Vail City Council member Kim Langmaid said the move could be part of a “climate adaptation” strategy. “It will save a lot of water,” Langmaid said.
Council member Brian Stockmar added that the city will also avoid pollution that can come from fertilizers and other treatments.
Mountain Recreation, a district that serves residents from Edwards to Dotsero, already has a number of grass pitches, including the multi-purpose pitches at the Eagle Sports Complex.
Mountain Recreation executive director Janet Bartnik said the district has achieved water savings on these fields.
“It’s much easier to maintain turf in an arid climate,” Bartnik said.
Given the difference in climate even between Edwards and Eagle, Bartnik said the grass pitches allow for a longer playing season, with earlier starts in the spring and later closes in the fall.
Bartnik said the turf allows crews to clear snow without damaging fields. A multipurpose pitch in Edwards is open for play a bit earlier than grass pitches, Bartnik said.
These fields also don’t see the kind of damage that grass fields do. Grass football pitches often have little more than worn dirt in front of the goal nets.
Additionally, grass pitches these days are a lot different from the carpet-covered, injury-causing concrete slabs that passed for artificial turf a few years ago.
Bartnik added that the lifespan of a grass field depends on exposure to sun, snow, level of use and other factors. On average, however, it is not uncommon to see turf fields used for around 15 years before being replaced.
And, while maintenance costs depend on where a field is located, Bartnik said many recreation districts and municipalities replace their grass fields.
“Even in the Midwest, we’re seeing more turf for baseball and multipurpose fields,” she said.