|Level Playing Field: Gerald Prim Stadium's playing surface undergoing extensive renovation|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 22, 2004 -- The Sulphur Springs Wildcats weren't playing on a level field last year.
That should change with the improvements to the surface of Gerald Prim Stadium this summer.
With much-needed drainage improvements and the laying of new sod, the current work includes re-grading the field to correct the unlevel playing field.
When the surface was graded by engineers, they found the south end of the field was six feet higher than the north end, and the visitors' sideline was three feet higher than the home side. That meant most of the water was draining to the northwest portion of the field, toward the home sideline and dressing room.
"They are just about through with the dirt work," said SSHS head football coach Brad Turner. "They've leveled it out and just about got it on grade. What you see is they've had to dig down on one end and push dirt up on the other. It'll be sloped from side to side and also from end to end on a 1 percent grade is what I've been told. "
Leveling the field in itself won't cure the drainage problems. Part of the dilemma is that there is very little sideline on which the water can be moved. To help with that, drains will be situated 50 feet apart on each sideline. The underground pipes will take the water out to the street.
"The drainage is much needed," said Turner. "The field is slow to dry because there basically is no drainage right now."
The problem increases in the spring during soccer season when the rain and cold weather keeps the field muddy and slick for seemingly months at a time.
Also in the plans is a northern driveway so the visiting teams can pull their busses by the visitors' locker room at the northeast side of the field. That will limit the pre-game and post-game interaction between teams.
Along with the drainage pipes, a new sprinkler system is being installed and the turf, presumably tiff 419, will be rolled out the first week of June.
"Once they get that out, we'll start watering it and fertilizing it and mowing it," Turner said. "It's going to have to be mowed a little different than normal, using that kind of grass. It needs to be mowed every other day.
"We'll have all summer for the grass to take hold."
The entire process will cost an estimated $70,000. It's less than the $300,00 that a synthetic turf field would cost, but there are also maintenance issues that go along with the new field.
While the tiff grass is for highly traveled areas, there isn't any sod that will take the pounding of cleated shoes three or more days per week.
"It's going to be great this year, but the biggest concern I have about it is we're looking at next year and the year after," Turner said. "We've going to have five seventh-grade teams, three eighth-grade teams, three high schools teams next year. That's 11 football teams and four soccer teams and band. Can it hold up?"
If not, Turner said some of the games could be moved to Forrest Gregg Field at the Middle School. The most obvious problems there are seating and lighting.
"We'll take as good of care of it as we can and hopefully the field will respond," he added. "It'll be nice when it's all said and done."