After months of prep work, Christian Heritage’s on-campus stadium is finally taking shape.
Workers with Shaw Sports Turf began laying the synthetic turf for the stadium’s nearly 80,000-foot playing surface earlier this week, and the field is expected to be completed in the next two weeks. The turf is the centerpiece of construction at the school’s football and soccer facility that will bring a new fieldhouse and permanent stadium seating for the first time.
In the past, spectators have brought their own chairs or sat on blankets on the terraced hillside on the home side of the field.
Lions football coach Preston Poag said the plan is to have the main construction completed in time for Christian Heritage’s home opener on Sept. 7 against Murray County. This season marks the eighth year of football for the team but will be the first for the Lions in the Georgia High School Association after playing previously in the Glory For Christ Football League.
“There is a lot of stuff happening,” Poag said this week as construction continued and the Lions practiced in pads for the first time of the 2012 preseason.” We have about a month before our first home game, and everything is moving forward very rapidly.”
Plans for the stadium include a press box, home-side permanent seating for 1,200 people, mobile visitor’s seating for 800 people, the completion of the field house in the west end zone, fencing around the stadium, a ticket booth and paving of the parking lot at a later date.
“We will still have to do a lot of touch-up stuff in the next few weeks, but it is 90 percent done,” Poag said. “We will set the bleachers up in two weeks. It has good momentum, but it is just a lot to do. I know more about turf and base composition than I ever thought I would.”
Poag first played on artificial turf when he was at North Carolina State. A lot has changed since then.
“When I played on it, it was like playing in a parking lot,” he said. “This is a totally different turf. It is a lot safer than it used to be. You have to do some maintaining, but it is relatively easy. It will change the campus. It will be a showcase for our school and will allow so many different teams to be able to use it.”
Christian Heritage has been working mainly with Shaw Sports Turf Vice President of Sales Chuck McClurg. The son of Ronnie McClurg — the former Dalton High athletic director who also coached football and track and field — Chuck McClurg and Poag grew up together and played for the Catamounts in the 1980s, and both worked for Shaw before Poag took the job as coach and co-athletic director at Christian Heritage last year.
The Christian Heritage facility will give Shaw Sports Turf two local showcases after the company recently installed the turf at the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department’s Mack Gaston Community Center. In addition to facilities across the nation, Shaw also recently completed the field renovation at Ringgold High after tornadoes slammed through the area last spring.
For Chuck McClurg, the local facilities are a big point of pride.
“We really have two fields now in the local market,” he said. “This is our first high school field in Whitfield County, and we are glad to be their surface of choice.”
Earlier this year, Poag didn’t have a dollar figure for the cost of the new stadium and said much of the work was being done through in-kind donations from boosters and their companies. But similar projects give an idea of the expenditure, which was approved by the Board of Directors in the spring.
According to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram newspaper, the 89,000 square foot PowerBlade HP+ surface — the same surface Christian Heritage will use — installed in August 2010 at Leominster School cost approximately $1 million. Recently, turf fields were installed by a competing company in Cobb County at an average cost of $550,000 to $600,000, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. Published reports place the cost of the turf field in Ringgold installed by Shaw to be $450,000.
According to the company’s website (shawsportexe.com), Shaw Sports Turf has installed practice and stadium fields on more than 1,000 playing surfaces for all different types of sports and recreational activities, including many major collegiate programs such as Georgia Tech, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Southern Mississippi.
Christian Heritage Board of Directors Chairman David Jolly said the new facility will be the jewel of the school’s extracurricular activities and will benefit all of the school’s outdoor fields.
“This will definitely help our football program, but it will also benefit our soccer teams,” Jolly said. “It will also help our baseball program because the football team won’t have to use the outfield for their practices. There is a lot of excitement, and it is generating an esprit de corps from the students and will be a first-class facility.”
While the facility is a big part of the school’s future plans, Jolly said that even though it might help to bring more students to the school, that wasn’t the intent.
“This is a key component of our athletic program, and we both know that in the South athletics is a drawing feature,” Jolly said. “This is really more for the students who are already here. At the end of the day, we are a Christian school, and we will always have a different draw than any of the public schools, but any time people see progress, there is excitement.”
And Jolly said much of that excitement stems from the move of the athletic program to the GHSA.
“Any time you have a smaller private school as we have tried to develop our athletic program over the last decade, you have challenges,” he said. “We have so many different sports that utilize our field, we want to maximize the use. It has been a long odyssey, but it has been a satisfying one. It will be a tall order stepping into the GHSA, but it will give us a chance to develop those local rivalries.”
CHS begins laying turf at its new stadium
After months of prep work, Christian Heritage’s on-campus stadium is finally taking shape.
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