In the Cheap Seats
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

August 23, 2004 - Arp has two service station/convenience stores that I could find. They happen to be right across the street from each other on State Highway 135, just east of what looks to be downtown.

They appeared to be doing a booming business on Saturday. I know Tony's Stop and Shop got $34.73 of my money after a fill-up, and the Koon family was gassing up their SUV when I left. I recognized two other Sulphur Springs families also parked at the pumps at the station across the highway.

This isn't a column about the high price of gasoline - we'll save that for another day - but rather about how the merchants of Arp (both of them) can thank their school board for bringing in literally hundreds of visitors on what would have otherwise been a normal Saturday.

Arp, with a population of 901 people in the entire town and a high school of 300 students, has Field Turf on the playing surface of their football stadium. That is the reason - the only reason - we all put in a three-hour roundtrip to tiny Arp, Texas.

Rain on Thursday and Friday made Whitehouse's grass field too wet to play the scheduled scrimmage there on Saturday. Coach Randy McFarlin didn't want the field to be torn up the week before their first game. The scrimmage couldn't be moved to Sulphur Springs because of the condition of Gerald Prim Stadium, so it was taken to Arp.

It wasn't just Sulphur Springs and Whitehouse who made the trip, but Big Sandy and T.K. Gorman were there before us. I understood two other teams were coming that evening.

That's six additional teams, and their fans, who visited little Arp on Saturday. That's a lot of visitors, a lot of gas money. I probably would have stopped off for a bite to eat if Arp had a restaurant. As it was, I spent another $2.50 at the concession stand for a Snickers and a bottle of water.

Now, my $40 contribution to the Arp tax base isn't much. But, multiply that times hundreds and now you're starting to get the idea of how much that artificial surface will impact the prosperity of the little town.

If the Sulphur Springs stadium had the artificial surface, the scrimmage would have been moved here. Those 50 pizzas that the Wildcats ordered would have come from one of the pizza places here. Whitehouse cars at our gas pumps, Whitehouse fans eating at our restaurants.

After Nov. 5, football fans won't be stopping in Sulphur Springs unless their car breaks down on Interstate 30 while they're on their way to Greenville or Mount Pleasant, two District 12-4A stadiums with the field turf. Arp will undoubtedly host some playoff games.

The cash register will be ringing at Tony's Stop and Shop.

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