By Devin Golden
With the start of the high school football season a little more than a month away, North Murray is just “days away” from completing its $1.1 million project and upgrade to Mountaineer Stadium, school athletic director Roger Rainey said.
The school plans to have the project — which includes a new artificial turf field at the stadium — finished either late this week or early next week and will be able to show off the new surface for the first time during the school’s black and gold intersquad scrimmage Aug. 23 and the 2013 home opener, when North Murray hosts Dade County in Chatsworth on Sept. 5.
“They’re about three or four days away depending on the weather,” Rainey said Monday. “They’re at the point now where they are putting on the sand and rubber.
“As far as the playing surface, it’s all done.”
The project started in the spring, and along with the new turf, includes the construction of a field house behind the south end zone of the stadium and used primarily for the football program.
In April, school officials said the field house definitely would happen, thanks to a private donor who wished to stay anonymous, and the turf field was a possible addition from the donor. In May, the donor went all-in on the new playing surface, football coach David Gann said. Gann added the project began in early June and usually takes “five or six weeks” to finish.
“In April, we were talking about one or the other,” Gann said. “We floated some prices around and then the donor decided to do both.”
School boards must follow a specific process when constructing new buildings on public property, including sourcing at least three bids before awarding one, Rainey said. However, he said the donor wanted to handle the bid process. At an April Murray County Board of Education meeting, board members approved allowing the donor to build on school property. Once completed, the field house was donated to the school system. Rainey said the donor approached the school about the project.
At the same meeting, the school board approved allowing a synthetic surface on the football field, so long as there is a donation. Rainey said the donor also handled the bid process and met with bidders at (the donor’s) business.
“He took the bid process himself,” Rainey said. “He basically asked us if we wanted turf and we said, ‘Yes.’
“The only difference with the field house is we got the plans and had the drawings and stuff and got the bids and went to him and said, ‘Here’s the bids and stuff.’”
Ownership will be handled the same way, Rainey said. Once completed, the turf surface will be donated to the school system. Rainey said in April the three companies considered were FieldTurf in Calhoun, AstroTurf in Dalton and Shaw Sports Turf in Dalton for the project. He and Gann said Monday AstroTurf was awarded the project.
“It’s as nice a field as I’ve seen,” said Gann, who was an offensive coordinator at Ringgold High School before accepting the North Murray head coach position in the spring of 2012.
Toward the end of his time at Ringgold, the school put in a turf surface on its field following the tornadoes in April 2011 that destroyed the stadium.
Some of the Mountaineers’ players have watched the progression this summer when coming to the school for workouts.
“It’s definitely going to look nice,” said senior John Chastain, an outside linebacker. “It’s definitely going to inspire people to play better and perform better. It’s the fact you feel good about yourself. If you go out and look good on the field and have a nice field, then you want to play better.”
Rainey and Gann said the turf project cost $500,000. Gann previously estimated the field house will cost around $600,000 and the total donation would be around $1.1 million. Neither knew exact figures for the two projects.
Both Gann and Rainey estimated the cost of maintaining a grass field is around $16,000 per year. This includes painting lines, numbers and logos, planting fertilizer and other general upkeep duties.
Christian Heritage is the only local school with synthetic turf, which was installed last year by Shaw Sports Turf during an upgrade of the school’s stadium. The private school did not disclose costs of the field, but according to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram newspaper, the 89,000-square-foot PowerBlade HP+ surface — the same surface used at Christian Heritage — installed in August 2010 at Leominster School cost approximately $1 million. Turf fields were installed 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 at Ringgold High’s Don Patterson Stadium, installed by Shaw last year, at $450,000.
North Murray began classes in 2009. In 2012, the football program went 5-5 for its best season since starting varsity play in 2010.