SYLVA – It was never a sure thing that Smoky Mountain would get an artificial turf field in time for the 2016-17 school year.
Now there are 200,000 reasons to doubt it will happen by August.
Jackson County Schools needs to raise $200,000 in private or public donations before April 15 to account for a budgeting shortfall that came to light on March 22.
The school board began hearing bids for the turf project at a regularly-scheduled meeting last week. There were three of them, and the lowest bid ($915,000) came in $200,000 over the maximum price that Jackson hoped to pay ($715,000). Available funds include a grant, also for $200,000, that the school system received from the Carolina Panthers through the NFL Foundations Grassroots Program back in October.
If the school system does not get the financial help it needs from the community, the turf project will have to be delayed for at least a year.
Currently, there are 14 high schools in Western North Carolina that have artificial turf. Three compete against the Mustangs in the WNC Athletic Conference — Brevard, Pisgah and Tuscola.
The price to go from natural grass to turf has fluctuated over the years.
Buncombe County Schools was the first mountain school system to make the transition. BCS spent approximately $4 million in 2005 to turf all its high school fields.
Reynolds was the first of the current 14 turf fields in WNC to be refurbished last summer at a cost of $400,000.