Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SPORTS >> Middle school gets turf

IN SHORT: Construction is nearly complete on Jacksonville Middle School field house booster project.

Leader sports editor

The grass is fake but the benefits should be real at Jacksonville Middle School’s new fieldhouse.

A community-wide effort came a step closer to completion last week with the installation of FieldTurf inside the fieldhouse.

The artificial turf came from Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium, undergoing a renovation of its own, and Jacksonville booster club president and state representative Mark Perry said its installation makes Jacksonville one of the few middle schools in the state to have such an indoor surface.

“It looks awesome,” said Perry, who has joined local coaches to help push the middle school project.

Perry said the cost of the turf and its installation was $15,000, an improvement over the $50,000 a brand new surface would have cost. Now, Perry said, Jacksonville will have a facility available for multiple uses, from football practice to youth sports like Sertoma football.

“The high school has their own,” Perry said. “The middle school, we can use it for football, baseball, track if you really have to, the Sertoma organization.”

Perry, coach of the Jacksonville High School shooting team, said he even got to take his shooters indoors to practice with laser guns. “That was phenomenal,” he said.

The fieldhouse will have a weight room and an upstairs study area with computers. Final stages of construction include finishing the painting and installing sprinklers for fire prevention.

“We have determined to get this thing finished before football season starts,” Perry said.

Donations of labor and materials played a large part in the fieldhouse construction, Perry said. Pinnacle Structures in Cabot donated the building itself.

“It was built by the community for the community,” Perry said. “The city has helped us, the water department. Any person I’ve asked to contribute has answered the call.”
Perry said any facility in which young people can have supervised athletic activities and a place to study is bound to be good for the city overall.

“Anything that you can do to give them a place,” Perry said. “It’s win-win.”
FieldTurf first appeared in the late 1990s as a competitor to AstroTurf, which was frequently blamed for abrasions and knee injuries because the surface was too unyielding.

The FieldTurf surface is a blend of synthetic fibers that more resembles and feels like natural grass while the infill has layers of rubber and sand that provide a cushion for athletes as they plant their feet and pivot.

A spray of rubber bits during a football tackle even resembles flying dirt, Perry said.

A five-year study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found injury rates were similar between natural grass and artificial surfaces like FieldTurf, though there were more skin injuries and muscle strains on the artificial surfaces and more concussions and ligament tears on natural grass.

Football players have praised FieldTurf and surfaces like it because they provide more cushion, are easier on the knees and joints and reduce turf burns. Stadium operators like it because of its durability and relatively low maintenance.

Most of the criticism of FieldTurf and its artificial-surface cousins has come from the professional soccer world.

High profile players like David Beckham have said natural grass should be used for all major soccer matches because the artificial surfaces take too much of a toll on players’ bodies and don’t play enough like real grass.