Yellowjackets to play on new turf

By Wayne Bryan Published July 31, 2011 at 3:13 a.m.
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— Arace is on to install a new artificial-turf field at Yellowjacket Stadium at Sheridan High School before the team’s first home game on Sept. 6, said Mark Perkins, athletic director for the Sheridan School District.

“Now that the turf is here, we have been told that the Hellas Company can have it installed in three weeks,” Perkins said.

High school football practice for the 2011 season begins this week around the state. Perkins said practice will take place on the old grass practice field until the new Fusion turfis down and game-ready.

“Getting the synthetic turf for the stadium is important to the success of this program and the team,” Yellowjackets head coach Louis Campbell said earlier in the year when funds were being raised for the new playing surface. “It makes a statement to the players about the kind of support they have from their community.”

Perkins said the new turf will bring the field’s playing condition up to the standards used by Sheridan’s rivals in the 6-A South conference.

“This is what everybody in the conference is going to,” Perkins said. “All but three of the teams play on artificial turf.”

Only Benton High School and the two Little Rock schools in the conference, A.J. Fair and J.L. McClellan, still play their games on natural grass, he said.

The new surface will also be safer for the players, Perkins said. It will also end the problems caused by fall rains on a field that is used almost every day.

“We totally redid the field six years ago in natural turf, at a cost of $225,000,” Perkins said. “We started from the ground up, but then we had the rain a couple of years ago, and we played every game in a quagmire.”

Perkins said the money spent on 10 yearsof keeping up the field would almost cover the cost of the new synthetic field.

“All you have to do with this new turf is sweep it and brush it about four times a year,” Perkins said.

Yellowjacket Stadium is used most every day for a game during football season. The field is the site for varsity, junior varsity, junior high school and seventh- and eighth-grade football games. Perkins said peewee league teams used to play on the field on Saturdays, but were moved because of the condition of the natural-grass field.

“We have had to confine the band to the parking lot, and they get very little time to practice on the field,” he said. “We are also allowing the peewee players back, once the turf is down.

With the artificial surface, the band can play on the field during fourth period before the team comes to practice, and the field can be used all year for almost any sport.

“It will be available for physical education classes, soccer, and the baseballteam can even practice taking ground balls off the turf,” Perkins said.

The cost of the synthetic surface was $680,000. On March 14, the Sheridan School Board committed up to $400,000 of low-interest school construction bonds for the project, if the remainder of the funds were raised by donations and sponsorships.

The Yellowjacket Touchdown Club, an organization of community supporters of the team, raised $300,000 in about three months with the help of consultant Tim Cowan of Athletic Surfaces Plus.

“The community really stepped up,” said David Damron, president of the Touchdown Club. “We’re a small organization, but the local businesses and some individuals helped us raise the money quicker than I thought we could.”

Damron said members of the club met with Cowan to plan their campaign and contacted key people in the community.

To encourage gifts to the campaign, seven levels of giving were created. Contributors giving at least $25,000 can place company names or logos on two panels that are 7 feetby 10 feet each, called legacy panels, that will run along the sidelines on both sides of the field.

The second level of giving with gifts of no less than $12,500 will earn the contributor one panel on the home side, and those donating a gift of $7,500 will receive a panel on the visitors side, Perkins said at the beginning of the campaign. The panels will remain along the field for 10 years.

Other gift levels will also be recognized at the dedication of the field during halftime of the first home game.

“The field is not just for football or just for sports,” Damron said. “It is not even for just the schools; it is for the community. We will be able to conduct all kinds of special events on the field.”

Damron said the community already has plans for using the field next year.

“We have usually held our annual Relay for Life for the fight against cancer at the stadium,” he said. “This year we had to move it. Next year it will be on the field, rain or shine.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.