Home improvements have become the latest rage over the past several years and football fields are no exceptions
In the past decade, high schools with older stadiums have been making renovations and repairs to not only enhance the players’ experience but the fans’ experience as well.
Also the switch from grass to turf, is a great benefit to not just football but other sports and the community.
This past summer, Ada, Bath and Delphos (coaches talk about new turf in previews) all added turf to their fields for just this purpose and expect the trend to continue.
Four teams in the Western Buckeye League currently have turf and four teams in the Northwest Conference will all have turf and each of these schools sees major benefits to adding the faux grass.
Ryan Reindel, Bath’s football head coach, is excited to make the transition from grass to turf. Talks about making the change at Bath came about eight months ago as Cam Staley, athletic director and Rich Dacken, superintendent, worked together with the Bath board of education to complete the project.2
“I think the benefits for turf are the organization for practice but how it benefits every program,” Reindel said. “The soccer team is going to be on it and in the spring the baseball and softball teams are going to be able to use it. We don’t have to concern ourselves with the rain.
“We have seven games this year on turf with two of our away games on turf and then five home but you still have to be able to practice on our grass to get used to those fields we play on Friday nights for the most part we are going to on turf.
Reindel said this is a trend and sees other schools making the transition.
At Ada, Dan Lee, principle, echoed what Reindel said was one of the reasons Ada decided to make the transition to turf.
“I think we were just excited by the broad base impact it is going to have for our community and multiple extra curricular activities,” Lee said. “One thing we really wanted to address was our soccer game facility to be at a high level and to be able know have announcement, seating, lighting and a high quality thing and it benefits football and it is a neat thing for our band to perform on and it also is something talking to area schools it is a benefit for their softball and baseball programs.
“We are excited about how it turned out. We think it looks pretty sharp.”
Wapakoneta is one of the schools that was early to add turf when they did so in 2010 and then redone it in 2020.
“We wanted a multi-surface place to play to play where we didn’t have to worry about weather,” Redskin athletic director Brad Rex said. “It was getting used by our junior high, our midget football so that dirt field was getting torn up every year and at that time we were still hosting playoff games so you could see they were moving the playoff games to turf so an added incentive was that if we get this we are going to get some playoff games which are fortunate enough to have.”
n addition to the turf, Wapakoneta refurbished its stands and press box facility in 2020 as they continue to be proactive in their approach to establishing one of the best stadiums in the area.
“We have been working on the stadium project when Mike Watt was the athletic director and he is still here as the business manager so he has been instrumental in this,” Rex said. “He has worked and worked and worked to get this stadium project done.
“it was kind of in phases. We put the locker room, wrestling building there,” Rex said. “We were looking to put the wrestling building here at the high school and got a price on it and that was pretty high.”
Rex then consulted with Coldwater and Cavalier athletic director Eric Goodwin who had just completed a similar facility and see how they approached the situation.
After getting a good feel for that, he met with the wrestling coaches who were on board with having it at the stadium and soon it was a go for the wrestling room/locker room building adjacent to the stadium. The building has one wrestling mat at all times of the year plus a small weight room for the wrestling teams. When it is wrestling season there is four mats in there.
“It a beautiful facility for that and the locker rooms are just massive,” Rex said.
The next phase in the stadium renovation, initiated by Aaron Rex when he returned as superintendent, was to renovate the bathrooms on the visitor’s side of the stadium.
“He thought that was an eye sore, so he built the restrooms and the concession stand and in the wrestling/locker room we put in an official’s room too,” Rex said. “Everything was there and nobody had to walk to the middle school. Although I thought that was kind of a neat tradition.”
Up next was the overall stadium project that they knew was going to be have a high price tag and had tried several years before to go full-bore on it. But at that time the YMCA and the Neil Armstrong museum were in the process of fund raising, so Rex said they delayed their plans.
After a two-year delay, Watt and Aaron Rex were back to give the stadium renovations a big push to get it done. With the assistance of local businesses, they raised the necessary finances to begin the arduous task of improving the stadium.
In additions to the bleachers being redone, a new enlarged press box was erected that also houses a hospitality suite. The press box features 12 seats in the front row and nine in the back in addition and there is a separate video room. Four suites were added for the sponsors and each one seats four to eight comfortably and all have televisions and little refrigerators.
On the visitor’s side, five feet was added to the press box.
Now that the projects is complete, Wapakoneta owns one of the best places to play in the area.
“The feedback we get is unbelievable,” Brad Rex said. “This is a college type atmosphere and we have had workers come and work here who played at Division III schools saying it was no where near as nice. Rex said. “Last year we had our stadium but we really didn’t get to show it off with covid and everything so I’ll be anxious to see what people say.”
Putting in turf not only benefits football but all the sports such as soccer as well as baseball and softball who can practice on it when the ground gets saturated. At Wapakoneta, even wrestlers can take advantage of the turf to do some running and not be confined indoors.
“The turf has been so good for us,” Brad Rex said. “The community kids will go out there and play. It’s great. We want them to be active. We want them to take care of it but we want them to be active.”
Another major benefit schools are seeing with the turf is the cost. While initially it may cost a lot to put it in, the long term maintenance makes up for this.
“You are spending x amount of money on gas and paint and maintenance on man hours painting it and cutting it and fertilize it so in the long run we think we are ahead of the game as far as monetarily, Rex said. ‘it was taking 20 to 25,000 a year in 2010 to maintain it so the smart thing they did was put money away to replace the turf when it got old so when we went to replace the turf this time we had a good amount of money this time.”