Playing school sports on natural grass may soon just be a memory for student athletes at Madison Schools after the district signed a $300,000 deal toward its first artificial turf field.
Madison officials announced the agreement this week that will see Premier Health, owners of Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, help cover a portion of the $1 million costs for a plastic football and soccer field in exchange for naming rights.
Madison schools is one of only three Butler County school districts – along with Ross and New Miami Schools – that still plays prep sports on natural grass fields.
A school sports boosters’ fund-raiser started last year in the Madison Schools community has raised $610,610 in pledges prior to Atrium’s donation.
School officials said they hope the remaining money to pay for the $1 million field can be raised by the end of spring, allowing installation to be done during the summer in time for schools to open in August.
“We are one of the few schools in our conference that has not upgraded to synthetic turf and our football program has been extremely successful in the past years,” said Madison schools Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff, referring to the team’s historic and deep runs into the state playoffs in 2017 and 2018.
The agreement with Premier Health also includes the medical center providing an athletic trainer to the school system for the next decade.
While the pact includes some naming and signage rights for Premier Health and Atrium Medical Center the playing surface will retain its current name of Larry Brandenburg Field.
School officials said the deal will not allow enough money to replace the field’s surrounding track.
Premier Health officials released a statement Wednesday saying the company “values its long-standing partnership with Madison Local School District, and considers it a privilege to care for and serve as a resource for the district’s student athletes.”
“We look forward to teaming with district officials, coaches and athletes for many years to come, in keeping with our mission to build healthier communities,” said officials.
Tuttle-Huff said “often times we cannot allow our youth teams to use the field because six games on a Saturday can destroy the field for the following week if the weather conditions are poor.”
“The installation of synthetic turf will provide playing and practice surface that can be used at any time during the year. Additionally, it will create opportunities that currently aren’t possible with the current state of the field, which can include spring baseball and softball practices, physical education classes and recess area. Plus, games and practices will not be cancelled or postponed due to rainy conditions,” said Tuttle-Huff.
Most local schools are on their second-generation artificial turf fields, many of them finance in conjunction with private companies, often area health care providers.
The plastic grass surfaces are costly – ranging usually from $1 to $2 million – during their initial installation because a complex drainage and padding system is buried beneath. Subsequent field replacements, however, are less expensive because the below-surface system remains operable. The fields’ lifetimes range around a decade.
Madison’s current grass field is relatively fragile, said school officials.
A single football game in the rain can create a muddy surface and severely damage the grass making it virtually unusable for other games or sports.
Moreover, a fake turf field can be used more often by physical education classes, school marching bands and local, non-school youth and adult sports teams.
And rental fees charged to community sports leagues using the field can produce a new source of revenue for public schools as can offering the sports venue as a site for state prep playoff games.