A group headed by Dale Wagner is working to have an artificial turf sports field installed at Othello High School. At the Monday, Dec. 10, school district meeting, the board gave permission to the group to pursue their plans after Wagner gave a presentation on the proposed facility. Wagner presented a number of reasons on why he and his group - which includes community members Janelle Andersen, Shanna Alvarez and OHS athletic director Don Bullis - feel an artificial turf field would be a tremendous asset to athletic teams and the Othello community in general. Although Wagner admitted the installation would be expensive, savings on maintenance costs and the potential to host more sporting events would help to offset those expenses in the long run. In addition to those potential savings, Wagner is in the process of seeking a grant provided by The Community Sports Development Council (CSDC, www.csdcouncil.org) to provide up to 70 percent of the funds to install the turf. Wagner estimates the group will need to provide $350,000 to $380,000 but is also seeking local donors to provide a big chunk of the funds and possibly donate time or other resources to the actual construction if it is approved. "They (CSDC) will help with the whole project if we need them to," Wagner said. "But, we're hoping the community can bring things to the table, including funds, but also, we're looking for help with excavation, donations of money, gravel, anything that can be offered." If an artificial field is built, the group estimates it will save about $20,000 dollars per year on maintenance costs by eliminating the need for painting lines, watering the grass or paying for costly chemicals for fertilization. But Wagner's main priority is to provide more opportunities for athletes to compete year-round and host playoff events. "It makes for a cleaner, faster game in my opinion," Wagner said about turf's advantages. "I think studies show that it's easier on the maintenance issue." The group also supports turf because it provides a more consistent play surface. As athletes take to the field, their game play inevitably leads to damage, leaving thin spots and mud pits that are hard to repair. What's worse, these areas can become dangerous and lead to injuries. "Once the fall sports hit, moisture comes: dew, frost, rain," Bullis said. "With the amount of use that field gets, it gets torn up so quickly it just becomes a mud hole." Wagner feels the potential benefits a turf field will bring will outweigh the costs and pointed out there won't be any taxes involved. He feels a new field is "a definite need for the community." For Wagner, the turf field could end up being a focal point for the community so it can host more events like Relay for Life, Othello Soccer League games and of course, high school sports like football, soccer and track. "I think with the savings and the pros and the cons, obviously, the pros are going to outweigh the cons and I think the community will realize that," Wagner said. At this point, the turf group is still in its first steps to achieve an artificial field. Wagner and his supporters are waiting to find out if the grant will be approved. If the numbers and schedules work out, he hopes the project can begin this coming summer. "We're asking for the community to see the need and put forth what we can in a cost-effective but also professional way," Wagner said. "It needs to be done right and hopefully, the grant will help us enough that the community will still need to step up but hopefully, understand that the grant is a big help." Wagner has set up the e-mail address email@example.com for the as-yet unnamed group for community members to voice their opinions on the project and become involved if they wish.