My line is in Business Development; lead tracking and showing ROI (return on investment) for actions and initiatives. So I’m fascinated by data, statistics, and conversion rates.
I would like to share with you the information that I’ve dug up in my research on the Collingswood Outdoor Enrichment Project. There are some key areas that I would like to focus on- hopefully removing an emotional response as to why I will be voting NO on March 13th.
The ideas presented below are my own. I did start my research with a bias that communication with the community was weak on the district’s part. I felt like the statements just weren’t clear, and that something seemed off about that.
Looking back, I realize it’s because the district’s ad-hoc committee for this plan had gone so far down the rabbit hole with options, concept drawings, and price tags that it seemed like a fully-cooked series of plans.
After months of listening, reading, and discussions I realized that it again comes back to bad communication and unclear statements from the district- that these are still ideas. The vote on March 13th will be for a loan- not a stadium per se. The investment will buy services and products, probably very close to the plan, but as far as I can discern there is no contract, bids, or site surveys that were done to assure that for $X, Collingswood will get Y result. See the current information from the district here: http://www.collingswood.k12.nj.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=354616&type=d
Selling The Stadium: Postive Return On Investment Claims
Claim: The Artificial Turf Surface Will Improve Getting Scholarships For Our Students
I used data from the district’s Athletic Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame to look at the past seven years to represent what I would argue would be Collingswood High School’s best athletes (due to recognition and awards).
Let’s look at the different teams and extracurriculars that would be most affected by the new facility:
Softball & Baseball-
Collingswood athletes that played Baseball do make up a large percentage of the overall awarded scholarships for Boys, with those athletes continuing to play one of their sports into college- many of the athletes who played baseball play multiple sports.
Athletes who played Softball also have similar data in continuing to play their sports, but not as many played multiple sports.
Now the benefit to this sport with a synthetic surface is debatable. Yes, the field will be more even, but the use of sliding plays* are reduced on a synthetic surface- meaning that our outfield players will like be running and landing rather than sliding. The ball will also roll much further in the outfield- changing the dynamics of the game.
Also considering that we are talking about a spring sport brings up a concern of the effect of heat on the players. Any synthetic surface has shown to have a higher temperature reflected back up to people on the surface compared to natural grass. http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/documents/temperature.pdf
About 18% of Boys’ Team Collingswood Athletic Award winners over the seven years did play football, but those that did not play other sports as well did not have a record of continuing to play their sport after graduation
The benefit of the surface is debated for football players as well- with a significant decrease in injuries overall, but of those injuries, a 45% increase in ACL injuries alarms me (after having an injury requiring surgical repair myself). I find that risk to be too high. Professional players also report high temperatures and abrasion injuries to cause them to not prefer the surface over natural grass.
About 16% of all awarded athletes played soccer, but with not as many continuing to compete past graduation.
A lot of press was generated in 2014 after Women’s professional soccer players were limited to artificial turf to play on vs. the players for the Men’s Teams. With the increase of abrasions, ACL injuries, and heat issues there is also a change in gameplay*. One could argue that our players would adapt to a faster surface- one with a higher bounce of the ball (A reported, but not confirmed 28% Coefficient of Restitution) and training needed to become acclimated to the new environment. All of that work will not necessarily pay off- in that not as many of our soccer games are played on synthetic turf. There would definitely be a home-field advantage in these games.
Lacrosse could benefit from the change in surface. With more of our star Athletes continuing to play their sport after graduation and a change in the pitch giving an advantage to our team’s gameplay. Fall temperatures in the NorthEast and the effect felt on a synthetic surface may not affect our Lacrosse players as negatively as other sports.
Lacrosse is also growing in popularity in the United States with many states being home to schools that host teams.**++
Spoiler: Here’s where I see the best ROI for the stadium project as last proposed- reoriented with an artificial turf surface.
The scholarship awards show that Field Hockey players have the highest amount in scholarships awarded in Collingswood- with 85% of awards for Girls Sports going toward these athletes- it shows that Collingswood Field Hockey is on the rise.
Players also greatly benefit from a change in the pitch- with better ball roll, control, and fewer obstacles (divets in the natural grass that they currently play 50% of their games on). This change would increase our field hockey team’s games on the surface from 40% in the 2017 season to 90%. An advantage would also be seen at championship games in that the team would be more acclimated to playing on the surface that is used in those top-level competitions.
Field hockey is a sport that has been growing in popularity in our area, specifically Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The sport is popular worldwide, including clubs for men and boys in many countries. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm for the sport has not spread to most of the country yet**+.
9% of Collingswood’s top athletes were on the track teams (Track, Track and Field, Cross-Country, etc.) These athletes did tend to play other sports.
The reorientation of the field in the proposed plan does include adding a lane to the field of competition, adding an advantage over our current track to competitions held at home and possibly increasing use of the track due to the addition of another lane.
As a previous “band geek” (Marlboro High School Color Guard- rifle line, class of ’99) I know how hard it was to get access to “The Big Field” to practice formations. It does matter… a lot. While scheduling with other clubs and teams that need the space can be a nightmare, so is getting onto the field when it is not being watered. (Anyone who has seen a brass section running off a field when the sprinklers come on know what I’m talking about)
A surface with less upkeep would be a benefit for the marching band. I would have reservations about saying that it is great ROI because of the heat when the band would most likely be using it most frequently- in the early part of the school year. Summers in the NorthEast have been getting hotter and lasting longer (making you wish that the sprinklers WOULD come on).
My Conclusion: The ROI is not clear for all sports and activities equally.
Claim: A Synthetic Turf Surface Costs Less To Maintain
My data in the following section is coming from analysis from the main supplier of artificial sports pitches in the US- and in the area: Fieldturf**.
Numbers are based on an 8 Year Investment- which is the low end of the expected life expectancy of a FieldTurf surface. (8-10 years are the average- with a couple of outliers)
Cost of Installation-
FieldTurf’s calculations of 8 years of installation and maintenance being $660,000 for their product- with $242,000 for natural grass.
The ROI seems to be in the increased use of the surface.
Use of the Surface-
FieldTurf claims to allow for 5,088 additional hours of use compared to what we are currently using- that’s about 115 additional hours per week. Seems like is overkill and more than we need over 44 weeks per year of use.
Additional Costs Not Included In Construction- new grounds equipment and a more costly fill. The Collingswood BOE is currently saying in their FAQ that cork infill will be used- which is a more costly option compared to the Crumb Rubber Infill. Link to the Fast Facts Sheet from the district here: http://www.collingswood.k12.nj.us/ourpages/auto/2018/1/7/59300404/Fast%20Facts%20Collingswood%20%20Refernendum%20March%2013%202018.pdf
My Conclusion: The ROI is not apparent for Collingswood.
Claim: Reduced Costs Over The Span Of The 20 Year Loan (Bond)
While there is no exact calculation available, a 25 Year Cost Summary from Australia** can give us a pretty good idea based on the construction and maintenance estimate available from FieldTurf.
Soccer: Construction Natural Grass: $212,000
Soccer: Construction Synthetic Turf: $705,000
Soccer: 25 Years Natural Grass: $1,004,917
Soccer: 25 Years Synthetic Turf: $2,517,500
Another school in the area saw a replacement cost of the surface in the 8-10 year span to cost about 75% of the original installation cost*+++
My Conclusion: No, especially considering the amount of “Turf Regret” that some facilities experience*+.
Claim: The New Stadium Will Increase Home Values
There is a good case on the value of homes and the performance of schools improving in-step. There are also a lot of interesting discussions available**** debating the effect of A STADIUM COMPLEX on the value of homes.
There are a lot of correlated statements about the health and well-being of the student body improving performance in school. Additionally, more competitions at the stadium could increase foot traffic on main streets. Finally, that even more money could be given to booster clubs from ticket and concession sales.
There is alternatively a lot to be said about the increased traffic causing a nuisance to people trying to sell their home right near a busy High School Stadium- noise and traffic during open houses and the effect of lighting and noise on the quality of life for people already living there.
My Conclusion: I do not feel that there is enough data to say whether there is a true ROI here.
There are also other things to be considered when thinking about home values in the near future: See This Other Post About Trump’s Tax Plan
Claim: The Construction Of The New 18-21 Program Space Will Generate Additional Revenue And Avoid Us Needing To Send Students Out Of District
You do have to spend money to make money. I see that, but I do not have data about any wait lists of potential new students for the program and current costs compared to anticipated savings with the construction of a new space. Collingswood does have an 18-21 program, the program does not seem to be turning away young adult. While Collingswood School District does need to send some students out of district due to needs that these students have that the district cannot currently provide adequate services, this will continue to be the case even after a 18-21 program space would be built. Usually, students who are placed out of district have medical or other needs that the district cannot currently provide for, hence an out-of-district placement.++
My Conclusion: The ROI is not apparent for Collingswood based on the claim.
Claim: New Surfaces At The Elementary School Playgrounds Are Needed
Each playground will have its own set of challenges with such a project- to include with this project does not make sense and I can see how this work could cause the project to go over-budget. At my child’s school, a poured surface does not make sense financially and the PTA has already been working to build a playground improvement fund.
There is also concern as to when this work would be done. Timelines have not been shown for this work at each school, and with limited space inside and out- loss of a playground space could affect the morale of students.
My Conclusion: The plan’s anticipated costs do not seem to able to absorb this extra cost or able to achieve construction deadlines.
Am still not convinced of the value in working on the stadium and building the space for 18-21. I do not see value in the plan as currently presented, especially when factoring in the artificial turf field. There needs to be work done for sure, but a more efficient, lean plan could be what we really need.
I feel that an alternative surface that provides superior ball roll over what we now have is zoysia grass, a species that has deep roots (get it) in use in lawns and yard across Collingswood. There is a specific breed Zeon, used on the golf course at the Olympics in Rio that I feel should be taken as a serious contender.*****
The seating area does need to be repaired, more lighting is needed. Something SHOULD be done.
When spending that much money over the life of a loan I personally feel that I would want something that is forward-thinking and a greener option.
What do you think? Do the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) line up with your values and budget? Let me know in the comments below.
To see the effect of the project on your taxes, click here for the calculator on the district’s website: http://www.collingswood.k12.nj.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=354616&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=670282
Updated on 2/25/18 To include statistics on the popularity of Field Hockey and Lacrosse in the United States of America. Also to include the link for replacement costs for Palisades School District of their FieldTurf surface at the 8-year mark..