Meridian Star

August 12, 2012

Community effort to upgrade Ray Stadium commendable

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     When the Meridian High School Wildcats take to the football field for their opening game Aug. 17, they will be playing on new turf.

    Thursday, work began to lay synthetic turf manufactured by Jackson-based EnviroTurf, the same company that installed playing fields at East Mississippi and Mississippi Gulf Coast community colleges, along with numerous other locations throughout the state.

    The Meridian Touchdown Club and the Community Foundation of East Mississippi are spearheading a fundraising drive to secure the $550,000 cost of the field, which is initially being paid for through a loan by BankPlus in Meridian, which is one of the project supporters. The loan will be repaid over the next 10 years.

Tuesday, members of the Meridian City Council unanimously approved a motion to contribute $25,000 to the fundraising effort.

    The bulk of the cost of the project will be funded through private donations, however. Supporters so far include business owners, private individuals and school alumni.

    Any amount raised over and above the cost of the turf will go in an endowment fund to pay for other improvements at the stadium, such as new seating.

    Hats off to all involved in the project, from the Meridian Touchdown Club and Community Foundation of East Mississippi, to the city of Meridian and the private donors.

    Not only is the project one that will make Meridianites proud, but it will save taxpayers money.

    One preliminary estimate predicts the synthetic turf could save the school district an estimated $30,000 a year in maintenance costs for the field.

    "Artificial turf requires no mowing, watering, fertilizing, poisoning, top dressing, aeration, painting or re-seeding," according to EnviroTurf's website. "Maintenance involves brushing for one to two hours, two to four times a year."

    Football fields equipped with synthetic turf also don't become muddy when it rains, which has been an issue at Ray Stadium in the past. And it is not just football players who will benefit.

    The turf will make the field more usable for all kinds of school activities, MHS Athletic Director Chuck Butler said in a June interview.

    "Physical education classes, little league football, soccer teams, band competitions and practice, cheerleading, baseball, softball, summer camps, The State Games, Relay for Life and other community sporting events could all be held on the field, including so many other events such as concerts," Butler said. "All of these events are revenue producing and right now we are missing out on those because of the limitations of a grass field."

    That's good news for everybody. Way to go team Meridian.