Turf Field Hits Setbacks; Athletes Left Questioning Their Status

Construction was set to be finished by the end of the summer, but the field's date of completion has now been pushed into October.

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Turf Field Hits Setbacks; Athletes Left Questioning Their Status

Ben Ayres, Staff Writer

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Despite original plans of completion by the end of the summer, the new turf field is still under construction, and not expected to be complete until the middle of October. Despite the obvious reasons that delay construction, especially the unpredictable Florida weather, there still seems to be some confusion surrounding the postponement of the project.    

   FieldTurf, the company working on the field, is an international company who has worked on fields for the New England Patriots (NFL) and the Seattle Sounders (MLS).

   According to Head of Upper School, Carl Carlson, there are two main reasons behind the project’s delay, the first being setbacks with the permitting process and then getting city approval for the new field. 

   “That part is out of our control,” Carlson said. “They took longer to get back with us than we were hoping for.” 

   The second reason can be expected, the crew working on the field experienced delays due to rain. 

   As far as the advocates for making the change from grass to turf, Carlson explained that it was for the most part, Chris Lavoie, the athletic director.

 

   “There is so much use… because it is a multipurpose field, and since we have so many sports playing… it started to make the field overused which leads to holes and tears,” Lavoie said.

   Senior administration aren’t the only ones on board with the new addition. Head Baseball Coach, AJ Hendrix, has been coaching at Prep for over twenty years and noticed the field had become worn out. 

   “It was really hard for the maintenance facilities group to come in and maintain the field to keep it nice,” Hendrix said.

   Right now baseball is currently in their fall season and because the turf field isn’t complete yet, they have had to scramble to find places to practice. Fortunately, the University of Tampa has been nice enough to let them practice on their field, but the Spartans are about to get into their fall season, so it will force Prep’s team to find another place to practice. 

   “Right now our practice field [options] are very limited but we have to make do of it,” Hendrix said. To him, the benefits of the turf field being completed will have what Prep has been missing. “It would’ve been great to be finished by the end of summer,” Hendrix said. 

   As far as the cost difference between a turf field and grass, the actual cost of the turf field was never made public, the school plans to recoup some of the money spent on the turf by renting out the field to outside companies and sports leagues.  

   Despite the fact that the original grass field cost the school upwards of $70,000 every year to maintain it, Carlson believes it was a better fit for Prep’s constant use.

 “A grass field is nicer, and more forgiving,” Carlson said. “We have so much volume on the field with [middle] school and upper school sports.”

   When it comes to maintaining grass fields, there always needs to be downtime so the field can stay healthy. Unfortunately, Prep doesn’t have that luxury between an entirely full schedule with Upper School and Middle School sports. This was a major factor which made Lavoie want to push towards to having artificial grass instead.

   “If we could live in a perfect world, I would say if you have a natural grass field that had downtime that would be the better solution,” Lavioe said. “However we have so many sports playing on the same field making it multi-purpose, so it’s not just a soccer field, it’s not just a game field so the natural grass gets older and more compactions making it a harder surface to play on.” 

   The state of the original field brought its own set of concerns. Along with the harder surface, the natural grass had holes and dirt patches which could also cause harm to athletes. 

   According to Carlson, a turf field “would have a much better lifespan and allow much more use as an ongoing cost that’s less.”

   Fortunately, the turf field is set to be complete by October 12, just in time for the beginning of the soccer season.