This is a touchy subject, what with the Alton School District in some financial straits these days, but wouldn’t it be great to see an artificial playing surface at Public School Stadium?
Before you laugh yourself into a conniption fit, consider:
An artificial surface field at PSS would save money in the long run and make it easier to play contests in nasty weather.
Synthetic playing surfaces used to be reserved for professional or major college venues, but that is far from the case now. In the Metro East alone, plastic grass is popping up nearly as fast as dandelions.
O’Fallon High School and McKendree University have artificial surfaces at their football fields. Within the past year, Edwardsville High and SIU Edwardsville have added synthetic surfaces.
It took about eight weeks to install the turf at EHS. It took place in May and June of last year.
Artificial turf is far from cheap – the surface at the Edwardsville District 7 Sports Complex cost in the neighborhood of $700,000. But it will pay for itself in the long run. Fewer maintenance costs, the ability to schedule multiple events close to each other and playing games immemdiately following a downpour make prospect attractive.
Public School Stadium in Alton is one of the sharpest looking high school stadiums around. It was constructed in the 1950s and its bowl shape, top-level entrance and atmosphere make it a great place to enjoy a prep football game or track meet.
The synthetic track that was installed at PSS several years ago was a great step forward – a logical second step would be an artificial playing surface.
The life span of synthetic fields is somewhere between 10 and 15 years. When they do need to be re-installed, the cost would about half of the initial cost because the foundation, base, and drainage system would be re-used.
In addition to increasing playable hours, synthetic fields have several other benefits over natural turf fields. They provide a superior, flat, level playing surface. They are safer on which to play – no holes to turn ankles or clumps of grass of dirt to trip a player.
With a synthetic field, a plethora of football and soccer games could be scheduled there, as well as practices for the AHS Marching 100 without fear of damage to grass. The scheduling nightmares that come with weather-related cancellations would be lessened and I’m sure Alton High athletics director Scott Harper and Marquette A.D. Jerry Montague would be grateful. And with soccer being played at PSS instead of Gordon Moore Park, the schools would have more of a say-so about weather conflicts.
On a recent cold, blustery, rainy day, baseball, softball and soccer games were cancelled all around the St. Louis area – except at Edwardsville High. With their “Tiger Turf,” the folks at EHS were able to get in in a girls soccer game against O’Fallon. It was one fewer game for which to try and find a makeup date.
The State of Illinois needs to make good on its payments to Alton before any of this is considered. And, of course, the most important issues are educating students and well being able to recruit (and keep) the best teachers possible.
In a perfect world, the state catches up on what it owes, the district decides to install synthetic turf and all is well.
Sometimes you have to step over a dime to pick up a dollar.