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Horlick football field going to artificial turf, funded by $1M from Unified's community service fund
Horlick football field

Horlick football field going to artificial turf, funded by $1M from Unified's community service fund


RACINE — Racine’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department is laying the groundwork for phase two of the renovations at Horlick Athletic Field, 1648 N. Memorial Drive.

Staffers are planning on laying artificial turf for the historic football field, which celebrated its centennial last year and, in the mid-1920s, welcomed Curly Lambeau and the Green Bay Packers for National Football League games.

About $1 million of the cost is budgeted to come from the Racine Unified School District’s community service levy. The community levy does not have a state-imposed revenue limit, unlike the overall tax levy, but the projects funded by the community service levy must serve the community beyond Racine Unified.

The Racine Raiders minor-league team plays its home games at the football field as well as Park, Horlick, St. Catherine’s and Lutheran high schools.

The estimated cost of phase two is $975,000 for the field reconstruction and $253,000 for pavement improvements. The city also is to bid out the replacement of the batting cages on the baseball field, which is estimated to be about $87,000. The total estimated amount is $1,315,000.

Parks Director Tom Molbeck told the Finance and Personnel Committee that the batting cages would be a third phase of the reconstruction. Alderman Sandy Weidner of the 6th District asked why the batting cages, which were initially scheduled to be added during the baseball diamond’s renovation, had been pushed back. Molbeck explained that construction costs increased, and the bids came in higher than expected, so they decided to delay the installation.

Molbeck spoke to the committee Monday — the same night the Racine Unified School Board voted to send a $1 billion, 30-year referendum to voters in April — to request that the city:

  • Sign a memorandum of understanding with Racine Unified School District stating the district will contributed $1 million from its Community Service Fund for the project.
  • Redirect $253,000 from the 2020 Capital Improvement Projects budget for the project.
  • Authorize funding and reconstruction of the Horlick football field. The batting cages will be bid out, but PRCS will go to the council in the future if additional dollars are needed.

Reallocation of funds

The $253,000 Molbeck wanted reallocated from the 2020 CIP includes:

  • $101,000 in carryover from 2019.
  • $25,000 from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza landscaping project, for which which bids came in lower than expected.
  • $20,000 which came from removing the Cedar Bend Tennis Courts in-house instead of contracting it out.
  • $17,000 from delaying some pavement removal and replacement until 2021.
  • $35,000 from delaying replacing fencing at various parks until 2021.
  • $40,000 from delaying replacement of Horlick Athletic Field batting cages until 2021.
  • $15,000 from delaying work on the Bowl West building’s garage door until 2021.

Benefits of going artificial

The benefit of going to artificial turf would be that the turf would better withstand multiple games, compared to real grass.

The department argues converting to artificial turf will have a long-term financial benefit for the city.

The department estimates that if it were to keep the current field, it would have to spend $91,707 to maintain it, including water, fertilizer, mowing the grass and marking the lines.

With artificial turf, that estimate goes down to $44,682, less than half the cost of maintaining a grass field. With an estimated 1.5% inflation rate, the department’s 10-year estimate for maintaining the grass field comes to $981,518; with artificial turf, that estimate would be $478,291.

Phase one of the Horlick Athletic Field project, which was ongoing this past summer, was the installation of artificial turf on the baseball field next to the football field. Construction on the baseball field was delayed because of weather. It was initially supposed to be ready for the spring season, but it is not looking like will be possible and teams were already notified to make accommodations, Molbeck said.

When asked how the football field construction would affect the schedules for area football teams, Molbeck said he would be meeting with team representatives soon to have those discussions.

The Finance and Personnel Committee forwarded the request to the City Council with the recommendation to approve. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 4 at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., Room 205.

Molbeck said that if the council approves, his department will start bidding out the project, should the weather cooperate, hoped to break ground in March.

A memorandum about the project states that a major caveat to accepting the community funding from Unified is that it must be “used or encumbered” before June 30, which is when Racine Unified’s 2019-20 fiscal year ends.

In addition to funding Horlick football field’s new turf with funding from the community service levy, funds from that levy are also being used to fund a new aquatic center near Case High School and a new sports complex at Pritchard Park, the latter of which includes a football field. The Pritchard Park facility received a $250,000 grant from the NFL Foundation for installation of artificial turf there.


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Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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