Friday, July 25, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills new field surface costing $700K

Leader sports editor

August 22 is the target date for completion of the new field turf being installed on Bill Blackwood Field at Sylvan Hills High School. It cuts the margin for delay quite thin. The Bears’ football team has a Blue-White scrimmage game scheduled for that same night, and a scrimmage game with Joe T. Robinson set for Aug. 25.

If there are any delays, Sylvan Hills athletic director Denny Tipton said backup plans have already been made.

“We can always move them if we have to, but hopefully everything will go on as scheduled,” said Tipton. “It all depends on the weather.”

The turf isn’t the only thing changing at Blackwood Field. Long-term plans are for the entire stadium to get a complete overhaul. Phase one includes a new playing surface, new entryway into the stadium, new fencing around the stadium, new asphalt for the coach’s parking lot and other areas inside the stadium, new surface for the track and new goal posts.

Cost estimate is about $1.5 million. The turf alone will cost about $700,000 and is being paid for entirely through donations to and sponsorships through the Sylvan Hills Bears Foundation. The Pulaski County Special School District paid for the new pavement and the new entryway is receiving work and money donations.

Tipton was hesitant to give a total cost to the foundation on the entryway because of the donations still being gathered.

“On paper it will be a six-figure job,” Tipton said. “But we’re getting a lot of donations. People giving money and even doing some of the work.”

Phase two will include building new seating and a new press box on what is currently the visitors’ side of the field and swapping home and visitor sides.

“We hope it’s not too long term,” Tipton said. “That’s phase two and we hope to start on it soon. We just have to complete phase one first.”

The football team is currently practicing exclusively on the practice field while track coach Grover Garrison has his athletes working out in the school parking lot. Sylvan Hills football coach Jim Withrow said the current inconveniences are minor compared to the benefits of having the turf.

“Usually right now we’re out seeding and all that because all the activities on it all year kill it,” said Withrow of the former grass field. “It’s going to be nice to not be dragging grass in here after every practice and having to try to sweep all that out all the time. You don’t have to avoid practicing on it if it gets a little wet. It’s just going to be a great thing.”

Even if there is a delay that causes changes to the preseason schedule, the football team should be in no danger of hindering any regular-season games. The Bears’ first regular-season home game is scheduled for Sept. 19 against Newport in week three of the football season.