- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
Springfield High School’s athletic fields will have a new playing surface later this year — a move that will likely keep football games on the south end of the city.
The Springfield City School District will spend about $908,000 in permanent improvement money to add synthetic field turf to both Evans Stadium, 1700 Clifton Ave., and Springfield High School Stadium, 301 E. Home Rd.
The city school board approved the project Thursday. West Liberty-based LeVan’s Excavating will install the turf at a cost of $906,198.
“It’s a responsible expenditure,” Springfield Superintendent Bob Hill said. “It’s a cost, but I think it’s a cost that ends up being a savings in the long run in terms of the upkeep of the field.”
The improvements at Evans Stadium mean football games will continue to be played on the south end in the future, Hill said. Board members had discussed in 2015 the possibility of moving the games to Springfield High.
Upgrades to the playing surfaces are part of a $3.5 million proposal to update athletic facilities throughout the district.
Construction will begin this spring and is expected to be completed by Aug. 1, Hill said. The project at Evans Stadium will begin on May 15, while the high school stadium will start on June 1.
The playing surfaces at both stadiums have deteriorated over the past few years, Hill said. Due to invasive grass species, the school has made repairs to the grass at both stadiums.
A grass playing surface is three times more costly to maintain, Hill said, which typically includes seeding, watering, mowing and lining the field.
The new fields will also allow the district to host events for the Ohio High School Athletic Association. It currently hosts tournament basketball games at the high school, Hill said, and tournament baseball games at Carleton Davidson Stadium.
“With us being in such a central location in this part of the state and being this close to Interstate 70, I suspect that we will have the stadiums filled with OHSAA tournaments each year,” Hill said.
The synthetic turf also provides a consistent, uniform playing surface, he said, which improves safety.
Springfield High is one of five teams in the 20-team Greater Western Ohio Conference that plays on natural grass surfaces for both football and soccer.
Evans Stadium was built as part of the Works Project Administration project for $95,000 in 1935, including $15,000 from the district, according to its website.
The turf will allow more opportunities for community groups to use the fields because the district will no longer have to worry about wear and tear from overuse, Hill said.
In 2015, school board member Chris Williams asked the district to consider moving Friday night football games to the high school due to the expense of busing students to Evans Stadium for five home events each year. It was met with opposition from some members of the south side community who believe the games should continue to be played at Evans Stadium.
Last year, the Wildcat football team’s home opener was moved to Wittenberg University’s Edwards-Maurer Field because of an infestation of grubs and fungus on the grass playing surface.
Due to the conditions of the field and the expense to maintain two natural grass surfaces, Williams said it makes sense to install the synthetic turf.
“It’s the best solution long-term,” he said.
The games will stay at Evans for now, Williams said, but he hopes to revisit the discussion in the future. Friday night football games are the only high school athletic events that don’t take place at the Springfield High campus.
“It’s one of those things we need to look at when we’re thinking about things long-term and what makes the most sense for our student athletes,” he said.
Springfield resident Mary Dill spoke out against moving the games to the high school campus. She’s happy the games will stay on the south side for now, but believes the issue will be raised again in the future.
Evans Stadium is a historical site, Dill said. She said doesn’t want to see it deteriorate the way Memorial Hall did over the years and end up demolished.
“It’s a necessary site that should be kept up,” Dill said. “It looks fantastic out there. It’s the home of the Wildcats.”
The community has been hosting games at Evans Stadium for decades, she said. Crime has never been a concern on the south side during games, Dill said, at either Evans Stadium or Catholic Central’s Hallinean Field, which is also on the south side.
“If it’s good enough for Catholic Central, why is it not good enough for the Wildcats?” she said.
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