Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SPORTS >> Beebe cuts grass, goes synthetic on gridiron

Leader staff writer

Grass is in the past for Beebe Badgers football as the school board voted Monday to proceed with plans to install a $680,000 artificial surface at A.S. Bro Erwin Stadium.

The 4-1 vote took place during Monday night’s board meeting.

The school district will spend an estimated $220,000 for the synthetic field with another $423,000 in donations verbally committed.

The vote for the field upgrade was taken after a lengthy discussion, with school board vice president Tommy Vanaman voting against the project.

Vanaman said the money needed to be spent on the academic side. He also expressed concerns the verbal commitments for the donated money might not come through.

The artificial field will open the way for a soccer program at Beebe.

Additionally, ROTC and the band can drill and practice on the new surface instead of in the parking lot. The city will also be able to use the field for youth football and soccer games.

“The more we get kids involved with the school the better,” Shook said. “The field is the most visited place on campus. It will make our campus better.”

After the meeting Shook said the new turf project will begin by summer.

The Badgers football team, coached by John Shannon, who has been a supporter of the artificial turf project, was the runner-up in the 5A-East Conference.

Beebe reached the playoffs after winning just three games the previous year.

The Badgers lost at Batesville, which also uses a synthetic surface, in the first round of the playoffs.

Beebe is one of the few teams in its conference that plays on natural grass, though many teams in the area still have a natural surface at their home fields.

Locally, Lonoke, North Pulaski, Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills still play on real grass.

The rest of the conference includes Batesville, Wynne, Blytheville, Greene Co. Tech, Paragould, Nettleton and Forrest City.

During previous discussions about the turf project, concerns were raised that an artificial surface would benefit visiting opponents, many of whom favor versions of the Spread passing attack.

Beebe primarily operates out of the run-oriented Dead T offense.

However, Cabot, which has an artificial surface at Panther Stadium, uses a similar offense and has reached the 7A state playoffs the past four seasons.