While the construction process may look like it’s lagging at first glance, Seymour High School athletics director Brandon Harpe said the new turf fields are on schedule.
Both projects should finish by the first official fall practices Aug. 1.
The near-$3 million project was approved to improve the football and track facility and create a soccer complex on the west side of the school.
The soccer complex was approved in 2016, while football got the OK in March.
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Football should finish its renovations before the soccer fields host practices because it’s a smaller job, Harpe said.
The soccer complex currently has its light fixtures up, a scoreboard and a press box on site.
Harpe said the reason the school decided to have two fields is because of the layout of the track at Bulleit Stadium.
“With the football, the main thing is that our curves are really tight on our track,” he said. “We didn’t have the width we needed to play soccer over there. Throw-ins would have been on lanes 3 or 4 on the track.
“In order to have changed that, we would have needed to tear down the bleachers and move light posts. Now, we’ve decided to play all the middle school football there. It’s going to have several games a week on that field.”
The fields also will aid the baseball and softball teams in the spring.
“Talking about spring sports, we won’t be cancelling softball and baseball practices unless there’s lightning,” Harpe said. “With the two turf fields, we can put each team on a field for practice. It will benefit them as well.”
Coaches ready for upgrade
Both boys soccer coach Matt Dennis and girls head Greg Musser have watched the progress on their teams’ new home from their classrooms.Their players also have taken notice to the changes next to the tennis courts.
“We get asked all the times by the players when it will be done,” Dennis said. “They sit there looking out the window waiting for the turf to be there. I have a lot of guys that are just excited for the season in general, and this is another reason to be excited.”
Musser said, “My classroom looks out to the new field, and it is fun to see how it has changed during the process. I think people will be amazed at what will get done once we have a few days in a row of cooperation from the weather.”
With the games now played at the high school, rather than at Freeman Field, both coaches said they think the student section will grow for games.
“I would say the atmosphere is what I am the most excited about,” Musser said. “Having the field on campus allows for students to come to games after their practices, and we’re hoping that will bring a great atmosphere to our program.”
The new field will have a purple block “S” in the center, like the football field, with a green field and white lines.
With a consistent playing surface, fans will see less bad bounces on the field.
“It will be faster, but not necessarily a lot faster,” Dennis said. “Because it’s geared for soccer it will be slower than a normal multi-purpose turf. I think it will play a lot like Floyd Central’s field, which is Bermuda grass. I think if it plays faster it will be better for us. We won’t have any bad bounces, which will be good for our style of play.”
With many postseason games played on turf, the Owls can’t be caught off guard by opposing playing surfaces.
The Owls currently play their sectional in Columbus on a turf field.
“The state tournament will always be played on turf at IUPUI,” Dennis said. “I think there were three sectionals played on turf last year. That’s the direction I think a lot of schools are going. Us having turf might mean we might eventually be able to host sectionals down the road.”
Multiple purposes served
In previous years, the Seymour football team didn’t have a practice field that served it well.The field failed to meet the normal dimensions of a playing area, causing extended practices.
“The turf will benefit the football program the most by providing for a full-sized practice area,” Seymour football coach Josh Shattuck said. “The current practice area is well-maintained and irrigated, but it is very small. The new turf will allow us to more effectively prepare for game play due to the added real estate.”
Now, the Owls won’t also worry about excess rain flooding the field.
“Turf is especially nice during practices and games due to the drainage,” Shattuck said. “There will not be pools of standing water when it rains. It also allows us to practice in the same locations on the field and not worry about tearing up a specific area of the field due to overuse like what happens on a grass field.”
On top of the junior varsity and varsity games, the stadium now will host middle school football contests, Harpe said.
Seymour is the fourth team in the Hoosier Hills Conference to boast a turf field.
In the current sectional alignment, Seymour is the only school with a turf field.
However, in the old sectional (Evansville), a handful of teams played on turf.
Shattuck doesn’t plan on making many changes to his system with the new surface.
“The turf field won’t drastically change game play in terms of competition,” he said. “What the turf field does is help to diminish the effects that natural elements, such as rain, have on the game. If it rains, the ball will still be wet, and the playing surface will be slick, but there won’t be puddles on the field, and the water will be less extensive.”
Like for soccer, the field offers a more consistent area of play for football.
“It also provides for a consistent playing surface,” Shattuck said. “The turf is the exact same at every part of the field. A grass field, on the other hand, may have areas that are higher or lower than the rest of the field or have areas that have better or worse footing than other areas of the field. The new turf field will stay the same at all areas.”
The Seymour marching band also will use the new football field for practice.
“It will also be good for the band,” Harpe said. “The practice field really limited them in the past because having that many kids on real grass is tough on the field. They will use it during the school day.”
Fans will see purple end zones, with “Owls” inscribed on one end and “Seymour” on the opposite side.
The rest of the field will have white yardage markers and numbers between the green.
This past week, a motion was approved that the shot put area will undergo renovation along with the new track.
“The kids are excited,” Shattuck said. “Anytime upgrades are being done to your facilities, it is exciting. The players and coaches spend so much time at the stadium and on the field that it is always nice when renovations are made to better the area we call home during the season.
“It also adds aesthetic value to the school and community. Our football/track stadium and facilities will be one of the best, if not the best, in southern Indiana. It will be a great source of community and school pride.”