GISD approves $498,000 makeover for Apache Field


Apache Field is getting a summer makeover that should be finished in time for the 2024 football season.

At a special meeting Monday, May 20, the Gonzales ISD Board of Trustees voted to approve contracting with Texas Multi-Chem — also known as TMC Sports Turf — to renovate the stadium’s natural grass field at a cost of $498,400. The money to pay for the project is to come from the district’s fund balance, which currently stands at about $17 million.

Executive director of operations Gene Kridler told board members there were two options available from TMC Sports Turf, with the second, less-expensive option bearing a cost of $348,000. However, there would have been a significant difference in the amount of work performed at the stadium.

“The only difference between the two is the amount of sod or the amount of dirt or topsoil that we put on that,” Kridler said. “One of the options is to cover it from basically the fence on the south all the way to the fence on the north side. The other one only covers probably about 10 feet from the end line, so that's a considerable amount of difference between the two options.”

Kridler said the larger cost amount includes up to 3,000 tons of topsoil in order to cover a larger area outside the playing surface, while the smaller cost amount would only include up to 1,440 tons of topsoil.

Work proposed includes removing the existing grass and adding topsoil, regrading the field to make it more level, installing a new irrigation system and then installing rolled sod over all of it.

“What they're going to do is they're going to roll down the grass so we don't have to grow it new,” Kridler explained. “It's going to be rolled in big rolls and all they're going to do is roll it out, so it's going to be ready — we just have to start watering it.”

Hybrid bermuda grass is chosen because it is able to withstand heavy traffic, has excellent wear recovery, finer texture, favorable color and is more weed- and disease-resistant, according to TMC Sports Turf’s website. The hybrid is also better able to handle extended periods of high temps and is more drought-resistant and can grown in many soil conditions. The grass itself comes from King Ranch Turfgrass, Kridler said.

Kridler said they could begin the project in June if approved by the board and have it completed in August before the Apaches play their first scrimmage. TMC Sports Turf is a vendor with the Texas Association of School Boards’ Buy Board, which means the cost has already been competitively procured, streamlining the purchasing process.

GISD Superintendent Dr. Elmer Avellaneda said the district has a healthy fund balance that is “way more than we are required to have by the state,” which would allow the district to pay the entire field renovation cost out of fund balance instead of using any of the money approved in the recent bond package.

Last November, district voters narrowly approved a $50.6 million Proposition A measure which is paying for renovations and upgrades, especially for safety and security as well as infrastructure improvements, at all five school campuses, the administration building, maintenance and transportation and the construction of a new CTE building and Ag barn on land the district owns on Stieren Road.

However, voters said no to using $44.48 million in bond money to fund a new athletic complex featuring a 7,000-seat lighted artificial turf football and soccer stadium as well as new facilities for tennis, baseball, softball and track and field, concessions and ADA-compliant bleachers, partial locker rooms, restrooms, parking and scoreboards, all to be built on the land off Stieren Road as well.

On Monday, Board President Ross Hendershot said he was of the opinion that the larger amount should be paid because “we should fix it right.” Trustee Josie Smith-Wright agreed with Hendershot’s opinion and made the motion to approve the stadium field renovations. The motion passed by a 5-0 vote as two board members — Gloria Torres and D’Anna Culak Robinson — were unable to attend the meeting.

School board members did not mention or discuss installing a turf playing surface at Apache Field similar to what was recently completed by Nixon-Smiley CISD at Mustang Stadium. Nixon-Smiley CISD’s project, which was finished on Wednesday, May 15, was part of a voter-approved bond issue.

In other action, the board voted 5-0 to approve installing TEA-approved safety fencing from Foster Fencing on all campuses and around additional district facilities, including the fencing at Apache Field. Like the field project, this project was sourced through the TASB Buy Board.

The total cost will be $876,260, of which approximately $819,000 will come from the remaining balance available from two Safety and Facilities Enhancement Grant (SAFE) grants the district received. The last $57,163.18 will come from Proposition A bond proceeds, executive director of state and federal programs Erin Lindemann-LaBuhn said.

“Fortunately, we did get approval this morning (from TEA) that we could use bond money to cover the difference in that fencing so that it would not have to come out of fund balance,” Lindemann-LaBuhn said.

The district had received a total of $956,741 in SAFE grants and had used some of the funds in March to have Victoria Communications install Wilson Cell Boosters on all campuses as well as the Administration Building to ensure reliable and accessible communication for first responders, staff, and students.

The fencing project will begin when school is out for the summer and should be completed before the start of the 2024-25 school year, Lindemann-LaBuhn said.

Trustees also voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of 40 new Promethean ActivPanels for Gonzales Junior High School, with panels to be installed prior to the start of the new school year, and trustees also voted to adopt updates to the district’s policy regarding its tuition-supported Pre-Kindergarten program.