Thanks to the NFL, there’s now a new member in Butler County’s high school synthetic turf club.
Madison Schools will go into the next school year with the district’s first artificial turf playing field thanks in part to a recent NFL $133,000 grant to replace one of the few remaining natural grass fields in the area.
The nearly $1 million, plastic-grass field, which has been sought by Madison since its historic run deep into the state football playoffs in 2017, will be installed by the time classes start in August, said school officials.
Only Butler County’s New Miami Schools, which has one of the area’s smallest enrollments, will still have a grass sports field after Madison installs its new turf.
“This NFL grant, along with large donations from some wonderful community benefactors, has made the dream of a turf field at Madison come true,” said Madison Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff.
Premier Health, owners of Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, donated $300,000 toward a new field in 2019.
“We hope to begin work on the field immediately after graduation. Raising funds for a turf field had become more challenging in light of the economic conditions of the past few years; however, the turf committee, led by (former Madison school board member) Chad Norvell, worked diligently and raised close to one million dollars in less than two years,” said Tuttle-Huff.
The artificial greening of area high school fields is a revolution now in its second decade and continuing as some local high schools – including Lakota West, Lakota East, Hamilton, Fairfield and Monroe are on their second generation of turf fields.
The most recent newcomer to turf fields was Ross Schools in 2019.
There’s good reason for fields’ popularity, said Scott Kaufman, athletic director of Lakota West and one of the veterans of southwest Ohio prep sports.
“Synthetic turf has truly become the standard for high schools in recent years. When you think about the old days of grass fields, some of the nicest facilities in a school district could only be used one or two times a week by a single team if you hoped to keep any grass on it through the entire season,” said Kaufman.
Thanks to dramatically reduced field maintenance costs, year-around availability the fields are far superior to old-fashioned grass surfaces.
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.
“Now, thanks to our (field) we are able to use it 24/7 - including physical education classes, community use, multiple teams. In addition, by having consistency in the playing surface, we have learned that we minimize injuries, things like sprained ankle, shin splints, etc., which because of ground hardness, grass divots or uneven surfaces happened more regularly on natural surfaces,” he said.
Fairfield Schools now sports two artificial turf fields with its original - Fairfield Alumni Stadium – now on its second-generation field.
“In 2021, having a turf field is not only valuable to the school, but to the community as a whole. We’re blessed to have two turf fields, which accommodate not only many of our athletic programs, but also provide performance space for marching band, Fairfield youth leagues, and OHSAA playoff games,” said Aaron Blankenship, athletic director for Fairfield Schools.
“And as great as the natural grass fields look, having a turf field allows us to focus our energy on other projects instead of worrying about the daily maintenance of a grass field,” said Blankenship.
For Madison, the new turf will be a big game changer, said Kelley Brandel, an official with the field fund-raising committee.
“Schedule and weather permitting, we hope to have the field ready for our athletes at the start of the athletic season in the fall,” said Brandel.
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