Fake (Grass) News: School Board Approves Artificial Turf At East Central HS
By Mike Perleberg
The Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools Board of Trustees approved funding for a new artificial turf football field at East Central High School on Thursday, February 15. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.
(St. Leon, Ind.) – When the East Central High School football team begins its defense of the 4A state championship next August, it will be on home artificial turf.
The Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools Board of Trustees voted Thursday evening to approve spending $903,000 from the school corporation’s savings to pay for the new turf at Trojan Field.
“It makes it nicer, but we can also increase and expand the usage of the field,” said Superintendent Andrew Jackson.
The Motz Group of Cincinnati is the contractor for the project. In addition to a number of fields across the tri-state, the company also installed turf at Lawrenceburg High School’s football stadium in 2015.
Jackson said the addition of artificial turf should allow the field to be used well over 100 times a year – as opposed to just 38 times last school year – by the football team, band, spring sports teams, physical education classes, youth teams and community functions. Having a turf field will also allow East Central High School to host IHSAA State Soccer Tournament events.
The artificial turf field should be ready in time for next football season. Dirt removed from the current football field will be used to create a new natural grass soccer field.
Jackson said the life of such fields is about 12 years before it will need to be replaced. The replacement cost was quoted at about $420,000. The superintendent felt maintenance savings and advertising revenue will allow for between $45,000 and $55,000 each year to be saved in a dedicated account toward that replacement cost.
Chris Larbes, field consultant with The Motz Group, explained that the turf field is designed to see daily use. He said school district’s decision to add a pad beneath the field will improve its safety rating, meaning the surface will better absorb hits and reduce the likelihood of concussions. He acknowledged that artificial turf fields can get hotter than grass.
Although the grass won’t need to be mowed, some regular maintenance on the field will still need to be performed, explained Larbes. Maintenance equipment is included in the contract.
School board member Dawn Burke expressed opposition to spending on the artificial turf. She wondered if athletes want to play on it or if the money might be better spent elsewhere.
East Central head football coach Justin Roden said the football program is 100 percent on board at all levels. The coach said that during East Central’s postseason run to a 4A state championship last year, he sold the players on playing in the mud because he had to.
“The message changes depending on the environment,” Roden said. ‘The kids are on board with how we play, not what we’re playing on.”
Board member John Maxwell was the member who got the artificial turf discussion going when he brought it up during a board meeting in November 2016.
Maxwell said he asked his grandson, an EC football player, who said he preferred playing on grass because that’s what he grew up playing on. Maxwell said he believed current players may favor the natural grass because that’s what they grew up playing on.
“But the mud was sold as an advantage because that’s what we were stuck with,” Maxwell added.
Later in the meeting, the school board voted to transfer about $700,000 to the Rainy Day Fund to restore its balance to about $4.47 million.