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Ladue Horton Watkins High School to replace its football field

An architectural rendering shows the plan for the new football field at Ladue Horton Watkins High School. Work on the project could start this spring.

LADUE • Ladue's City Council gave final approval Tuesday for a special use permit that allows Ladue Horton Watkins High School to replace its football field with a multi-purpose artificial turf field and add a grandstand with press box and viewing area on the east side of the field.

The project also will include a new scoreboard across from the grandstand, sound system and field lights on four 80-foot-tall poles at the campus. The school is on about 30.5 acres at 1201 Warson Road. The original school building there dates from 1951 though additions have been made over the years, said Susan Downing, the Ladue School District's director of communications.

She said the athletic field work is being funded as part of Proposition R, which district voters approved in April 2016 for an $85.1 million bond issue to renovate the high school and do projects on other district campuses. The projects have come in under budget, which allowed for a work expansion that included the athletic field.

“(The athletic field) is simply a second phase of the project which is being undertaken now that we know the funding will be available,” Downing said.

She said work on the athletic field project should start as early as this spring and be completed as early as this fall.

During a public hearing Tuesday, city officials said the new field will be in the same approximate location as the existing football field.

The campus is surrounded by homes, and city officials said a sound study showed noise levels on many nearby properties from the new sound system may be somewhat less than from the existing one.

Ladue School District Athletic Director Mike Gianino said the digital HD-type scoreboard will triple the size of the current scoreboard and allows for instant replays and advertisements. However, it will only be lighted during events, with no 24-hour back lighting, he said.

“It will be directed toward the grandstand and not project to neighbors,” he said.

Mayor Nancy Spewak said the district is willing to add trees and other landscaping if the scoreboard becomes a problem. She added that the city will address any neighbor concerns on traffic and parking.

“The school board hasn't said no to one thing we asked for to help neighbors,” Spewak said.

A memo of understanding between the city and school district suggests limits on field hours and evening use. It also states the field won't be rented to outside organizations for activities or events that would require use of the sound system or lights.

Donna Jahnke, superintendent of the Ladue district, thanked the Council “for the collaboration that has taken place between the city and the district” as details of the plan were worked through, inclding to reduce the amount of stom water coming off the site.

“I can assure you that the project we are planning is one that our school district, as well as our city, will be proud of,” she said, adding the district intends to do further sound and light studies once the scoreboard is built and make adjustments, if needed.