When Albertville did its big high school renovation several years ago, it installed artificial turf on the playing surface of the football stadium. Now, turf is taking off in a big way around the county.

Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheatre used turf on all of its playing fields. In the last two weeks, both Boaz and Arab have announced plans to put artificial turf on their football fields.

We talked to a local expert in playing field surfaces. He said the big advantage to turf is its durability. If Guntersville High decided to add turf, for instance, the football team could practice on the game field since there would be no worry in them beating down the natural grass surface. The band could practice on the field rather than in the parking lot. Peewee teams could play their Saturday games there rather than at Alumni Field. There's just no worry about artificial turf receiving wear and tear like there is for a natural grass turf. 

There’s also a cost savings in maintenance. There’s no grass cutting. An arsenal of chemicals is required to keep a natural grass playing surface looking good. Arab estimated it would save $50,000 a year just in the chemicals required to maintain its field.

When artificial turf came out many years ago, the surface earned a bad rap for injuries because there wasn’t much “give” to it. The new technologies have eliminated that. Thousands of tiny rubber pellets are under the surface of a turf field today that provide “give” similar to a natural field.

If you’ve ever walked on a turf field, you probably had a few of those pellets in your shoes when you got off the field. Likewise, when a player is tackled on a turf field, you can sometimes see the pellets spray up if the player slides.

There’s no painting of lines and markings on a turf field over and over throughout the course of the season. You paint it once and it lasts for years.

If there is a downside to turf – and it is a significant one – it is cost. The new Arab artificial turf field is expected to cost more than $700,000. 

This was the discussion when the issue came up a week or so back before the Arab Board of Education, as reported by The Arab Tribune:

If everything goes as planned, the Arab Sportsplex, commonly known as the new football stadium, will have a decidedly different appearance this fall.

The Arab Board of Education approved a $738,000 proposal from Warner’s Athletic Construction of Smyrna, Tenn., to install artificial turf on the field.

“That’s the lock and key price,” Superintendent Dr. Johnny Berry said. “They told us it may even be cheaper.”

The money to pay for the project will come from a $1.25 billion state bond issue approved by the state legislature last year. Arab’s share was approximately $3.54 million.

Officials say the decision to install turf was expedited with recurring drainage problems with the current field that left standing water in certain areas for days after a rain.

“There were issues with the turf coming up during the games, we all saw that. It’s been a safety issue for the kids when they were making a cut on the field,” Berry said.

While the artificial surface will be expensive, it will have benefits – not only for coaches and booster club members who spend an enormous amount of time preparing the field for games – but also the day-to-day maintenance of the field.

“I don’t think most people realize what all goes into the upkeep of a field with all the fertilizer and dressing you have to do not counting all the time you take with the mowing,” Berry said. “There will be some maintenance to an artificial field but not nearly as much. We’ve estimated that we’re spending $40-$50,000 a year when you do it right with what we have. You also don’t lose revenue from having to cancel so many games.”

The Sportsplex is also used for soccer games and track, as well as graduation and other events.

“Unless there’s lightning, a lot of events can be held that normally would not,” Berry said. “The best example given tonight was that after the heavy rain we had last Thursday morning, we could have played at noon. With our field now, it could be a week.”

Arab High School head football coach Lee Ozmint was ecstatic about the decision, which he feels will reflect on the city as a whole.

“I want people to come and see great football but I also want them to have a great experience. That starts with a beautiful field,” he said.

Ozmint said he would like for the city’s logo to be one of the permanent logos on the field.

“This is for everybody. Not just the football and soccer teams but I want all the people to feel a sense of pride in the city and I think this is a great step in the right direction,” he said. “We’ll be able to play after a torrential rain, the drainage issue is going to be solved and the safety of it will be better for our kids.”

The coach said artificial turf has come a long way since his playing days at The University of Alabama.

- - - 

The Guntersville City School Board has a $600,000 renovation of Chorba-Lee Stadium on its 5-year capital plan for 2025, but that is believed to be primarily to address some structural issues, not to install turf. So Guntersville could be the last city school in the county to continue playing on grass if the plans of Boaz and Arab come to fruition. 

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