Last fall’s historic Madison High School football playoff run may now lead to some more history-making: The school system’s first artificial surface playing field.
Madison is one of only three districts in the county – the others being Ross and New Miami - that still play on natural grass, but school officials this week launched a fundraiser to change that.
Some of their most compelling arguments for the need for a changes might come from memories of the school’s first playoff game victory ever last November against Anna High School.
Madison won 14-10, but the wet, natural grass of Brandenburg Field was churned into a mud bath, virtually destroying the playing surface and leaving it unusable for months.
Madison officials hope to avoid that scenario for football, soccer, baseball and other boys and girls sports by purchasing an all-weather turf field now sported by almost all southwest Ohio school districts.
“Academically, we have some of the best buildings and technology in the area. However, athletically, our facilities are dated and worn. It’s time to give our students facilities that are equal to their level of effort and success,” said Madison schools Superintendent Curtis Philpot.
Beyond eliminating muddy football games that can ruin a field for the rest of the season, synthetic fields have many advantages.
The plastic grass fields are more durable, take less maintenance costs and can even become revenue generators for school districts that rent out the fields to local youth and adult sports leagues.
Non-prep sports participants — such as gym classes and marching bands — can also use the fields nearly year around. And Madison officials said elementary students, whose school is part of the kindergarten through 12th grade campus, can use the field during recess.
More than a dozen years ago, artificial turf playing fields began showing up at southwest Ohio high schools due to enhanced affordability, though they are still pricey, ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
Some local schools, such as Hamilton High School, are already on their second generation of plastic turf fields, which last about a decade.
This week, Madison officials unveiled a fundraising website to generate private donations to augment the district’s cost of upgrading their field.
On the website, school officials said, “due to the wear and tear on the field and inefficient drainage, the field surface deteriorates throughout the fall season and as a result is unable to be used until the following summer.”
Some school and community booster groups have already endorsed the idea and are planning their own fundraising events to help.
Matt Morrison, Madison athletic director, said, “we want people to know that this is about more than just field turf. This project will provide a place to learn about motivation, pride, community and so much more. And not just our current students, but truly this is a field for our future.”