The field in Johnson Stadium was constructed in the 1960s soon after the school opened. Except for the press box and fieldhouse, few renovations have been made to that area of the campus.

That’s about to change.

Work will begin this week to install artificial turf on the playing field. Work is scheduled to be completed in late June before the fall sports season begins.

At the request of the Henderson County Public Schools, the Henderson County Commisioners have approved funds to install artifical turf fields at three of the county’s high schools — West, East Henderson and North Henderson. Funds to add the turf at Hendersonville will be included in the budget for the construction of the new school.

About 10 years ago, high schools in the Buncombe County school system were among the first in Western North Carolina to install turf fields.

“Our school board has basically given the green light that they want to see the turf fields,” Athletic Director Jeff Smith said. “It was up to the commissioners to allocate extra money for us to be able to install turf fields. What the school board had been asking for is the extra money to provide for the turf fields.”

The contract for the work at the three schools was awarded to Medallion Athletics at a cost of $1.89 million.

The commisioners gave the school system $2.75 million to complete the project.

Turf fields are guaranteed for 10 to 15 years based on the wear and tear.

“The turf itself is about $100,000, so much of the initial cost is in the grading and site prepartion work,” Smith said. “Part of the reason the commissioners were able to do this is that they have debt about to be paid off on construction projects from the past few years, so it shouldn’t increase taxes in any way. They would simply just take on the debt they’re getting ready to finish off. So our taxpayers won’t notice any difference.”

According to school officials, the timing of the project could alter graduation plans in June as the playing field will be out of use until it is complete.

“We’re doing everything we can to have graduation outside in the stadium as we traditionally do,” senior sponsor Brenda Gorsuch said, “but we may have to change where the seniors sit and how they march into the stadium.”

“The process started on April 13. We had a survey crew taking elevation shots for excavating purposes and for permits. So the next step is they’ll draw up a set of plans and get us to approve them,” Smith said. “We had a rough design we gave them for the bidding process. They will remove basically the entire field and will grade it down about 12 to18 inches. All the necessary drainage pipes will be placed then it will be backfilled with gravel. There is also a cement curbing that will go in where the interior of the track is. Once all that is in place the turf itself will start to come in and be laid.”

After the turf is installed, the lines, numbers and the Falcon design will be added.

“That is the time consuming process,” Smith said.

More than sports teams will benefit from the renovated field.

“Once we have turf it opens up a lot more uses for our field. Right now we have restricted use because it just gets worn out from the few people we allow to use it. If we allowed more the way it is, it would turn into a big dirt patch,” Smith said. “If we do turf, it opens up to basically two big classrooms we can use for P.E and soccer to practice on it, opening up the other practice fields. It will allow us to permanently fence in the softball field to where we can really improve that set-up down there.”

Adding to positive benefits of a new field is letting athletic coaches coach, rather than spending time mowing and painting the field.

“It will free up man hours for our coaches from painting and seeding and sprigging to where they can focus more on their jobs rather than being a ground maintenance crew,” Smith said.

The field will also be used to generate revenue for the school with the possibility of hosting special events on a turf field.

“We’ll be able to host events down there and tournaments without worrying about the field getting torn up,” Smith said. “That could generate more money, and community groups will also be able to use it.”

Student athletes as well as staff memebers, and coaches are excited about the new turf coming to Johnson Field for the upcoing sports season.

“Getting a turf field for soccer will be a different experience,” sophomore Cameron Kanetzke said. “The turf field is a big change, but a neccessary one.”

 

By: Kole Thomas

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