Putting in a new grandstand and resurfacing of the track at Blevins Memorial Stadium are a part of a $1 million athletics facilities project taking place this year at Brownstown Central High School.
While the grandstand is still on the table, the track project could be put on hold.
Soon, the corporation’s board of trustees will be deciding what to include in its 2018 building project. The corporation has $4.5 million available in debt service next year, said business manager Jade Peters.
Leaders of the track and field program are hopeful that will include an eight-lane track, and those associated with the football program are hoping for a turf field.
If that happens, the $200,000 designated for the track resurfacing will go toward other school needs this year.
“We’re more than happy from the track teams’ standpoint to wait one more year, hold off on that resurfacing if we can put in that eight-lane track along the football field,” said Derrick Koch, the boys track and field coach.
“For me to ask that, it’s big because if you’ve been out on our track, it needs a lot of loving right now. Our track is in bad shape,” he said. “Even if we have to do all away meets next year for middle school and high school, we’re willing to do that to get an eight-lane track in.”
Going from six to eight lanes would allow Brownstown to host the Mid-Southern Conference meet and other large meets.
Plus, other students at the school and people in the community would benefit from the track and turf field.
“In my mind, we have to continue to improve, we have to continue to grow,” Koch said. “To me, the change is necessary. To me, that shows commitment to not just our students here, but it shows commitment to our community.”
School officials estimated more than 150 people filled the high school cafeteria Tuesday night to hear the presentation at the end of the board of trustees meeting.
Also speaking in favor of the turf and track project were Jodi Tiemeyer, a member of the football Parents Offering Positive Support Club; Brett Bardwell, athletics director at Southridge High School; Bob Gaddis, football head coach and former athletics director at Columbus East High School; Randy Hammond with Sprinturf; and Matt Gullo with Kovert Hawkins Architects.
The POPS Club presented copies of a petition that more than 1,400 people signed in support of installing a turf football field.
Tiemeyer then talked about how the current grass field suffers a lot of wear and tear from games at all levels and can be a muddy mess after it rains, resulting in grass having to be resodded.
Also, when the field is not being used, it has to be roped off to keep people off of it so the playing surface can be preserved. That wouldn’t be necessary if turf is installed, Tiemeyer said.
The man-hours and materials needed to paint, water, drain, mow and maintain grass also would be eliminated by switching from grass to turf, she said.
“Turf opens up so many more possibilities for everyone,” Tiemeyer said.
Currently, more than 230 students from third to 12th grade are involved in the Brownstown football program. They all play games on the high school field, and the high school team uses two grassy areas across the parking lot for practices. If turf is installed, practices could be conducted on the field, and a part of the current practice fields would be eliminated to make way for additional parking spaces.
Other teams and classes and the band could use the turf field, too.
“I would love for the football team and other athletic teams and school classes or whoever to be able to enjoy the benefits that a turf field would bring,” Tiemeyer said.
Gaddis and Bardwell both spoke from experience, as Columbus East has had a turf field since 2006 and Southridge made the switch in 2010.
Gaddis said while East’s field was built with the football team in mind, many others have benefited from it, including soccer, cross-country, softball, baseball, track and field, band and physical education classes.
The surface is very durable, and the field can be accessed any time of year during any type of weather except if lightning is involved, Gaddis said.
“We’ve had it 11 years, and it’s still in great shape,” he said. “When we walked out on it last week to check it out, it looked nearly as good as it did the first day we had it.”
While it may seem like a big investment, Gaddis said putting in a turf field is a no-brainer.
“The money that you spend upfront you’ll get paid back by the amount of usage you get down the road,” he said. “In our school, probably every student has been on our field using it for something. We don’t say no to people to come use it.”
Bardwell said Southridge used to spend more than $30,000 to resod the grass field each summer, and some games had to be canceled because of the wet or muddy conditions.
“We had the worst field in southwest Indiana and worse facilities for football,” he said. “We had a great football program, but I always felt like we were doing our kids an injustice. They deserved better. I felt bad as the AD what we were giving our kids, making them go play on an inferior product.”
In 2008, Brownstown played a regional football game at Southridge. The rain that night caused the grassy field to become muddy, and people referred to the game as the “Mud Bowl.”
“After that game, our field was destroyed,” Bardwell said. “That whole year, it seemed like it rained every Friday, and we decided we’ve got to do something about our field, we need a new field, we need a field with better ground, a drainage system, better grass. We decided, ‘Hey, let’s reach for the stars and dream and go for turf.’”
MAKING THE SWITCH
There were some skeptics, but once school officials looked further into turf, they started to believe in it and decided to spend $600,000 to install it, he said.
“It has probably been the best thing facility-wise we have done at Southridge in my 19 years,” Bardwell said. “It has just been great. We are very fortunate we got a great product. It has held up tremendously. Our kids love it.”
In the first year, he said usage of the field increased nearly 400 percent. Along with the football team, it has been used by the baseball, softball and youth football programs, the band and PE classes.
“After we had gotten the field and the success that we’ve had on it, the pride that it has brought to the community, it would be hard to find anybody in our community now that thinks we made a mistake,” Bardwell said.
He expects the turf field to last three more years until it has to be replaced. That will only cost half the price because the base and drainage system will remain in place, he said.
Bardwell said there are annual costs of around $1,600 to take care of the turf field and keep it safe. A Gmax test is conducted to test the impact of the surface, and there is an antimicrobial application that protects bacteria from forming on the surface.
Bardwell also suggested purchasing a sweeper and a groomer to clean the turf as needed.
The only negative he could come up with is how the turf can get hot during the summer. Teams work around that by conducting practices early in the morning or later in the evening, he said.
Hammond spoke of his experience installing turf on football, soccer and baseball fields since 2009. That includes more than 40 fields at Indiana high schools and universities.
Sprinturf holds a patent on an all-rubber infill artificial turf system, which Hammond said he feels is the safest type of infill to have on a field and is most like a pristine, natural grass feel.
Gullo’s firm has worked with Brownstown schools for a while, including this year’s athletics projects.
Kovert Hawkins also was involved with the soccer and football turf projects at Seymour High School. Gullo said it took a lot of discussion until Seymour trustees realized turf was the best option in improving the facilities.
If Brownstown trustees decide to go with the turf project, Gullo recommended seeking bids from different turf companies to get the best price.
Board President Mary Ann Spray thanked everyone for sharing their comments and attending the meeting.
“I believe that a lot of voices have been heard this evening, and I think that’s what you all wanted, and we appreciate that,” she said. “We will certainly take very close and serious consideration to all of the information that we heard and received this evening, and certainly there will be decisions made in the future regarding potential turf and eight-lane track here at Brownstown Central.”