Carbondale athletes always anticipate the start of a new season, but they now have a new reason to look forward to home games.
Carbondale Community High School is bringing new synthetic turf to Frank Bleyer Field and the softball field at the Carbondale Superblock this month. In light of unpredictable spring weather, the school hopes to have the fields finished as soon as possible.
“This is a no-brainer making the transition to turf,” said Carbondale athletic director Mark Albertini. “Not only does this help out the community, but it will also showcase the City of Carbondale and give us all something to be proud of.”
The athletic department brought the idea of turf fields to the school board. It was settled that the football field and baseball and softball infields would be replaced with turf.
The baseball field is scheduled to receive treatment next spring. The project was funded through the 1 percent sales tax passed in Jackson County.
“We’ve lost regional games and practices due to field conditions,” said softball coach Kim Wheeler. “Making up missed practices is hard and poor field conditions forced us to finish 10 games shy of a full season this past year. Now with the new facilities our players can be proud of the field they’re playing on.”
The new turf will allow CCHS to have an all-purpose field for any sporting event. The band would run into the same issues on the field as the football team, as they both rely on the lines for positioning. During the summer when the band worked on formations, they’d have to set up cones because the field wasn’t painted. With the new facilities, maintenance won’t have to worry about lining the field anymore.
“The multipurpose aspect of a turf field is what I like most about the change,” said Albertini. “It’s also going to save the school a lot of money down the road because you’ve got to think about how much maintenance, labor and time goes into taking care of a field.”
The Carbondale football team dealt with field issues on the road at Waterloo last season. Flooding on the field was so bad the game was postponed and the Terriers had to return to Waterloo three nights later.
“We understand that we’re going to have games in nasty conditions like that, but it was a bummer for our players.” said football coach Bryan Lee. “We had recently introduced our new spread offense and it was like playing the game with a greased pigskin. With this new turf we will be able to play more as a team and play the offense at a consistent speed.”
The scalding months of July and August are already tough on the players and coaches. With a new turf that retains heat, hydration is at the top of every coach’s mind. Cooling stations have already been requested to be placed on the sidelines.
“The heat aspect and general surface change are the only downsides of playing on turf,” Lee said. “It’ll be uncomfortable at first and take some time for the players to get accustomed to being tackled on actual turf – one of the things we’re most looking forward to is being able to practice on our game field every day and become familiar with the lights and field dimensions.”
The synthetic turf field should actually be a safer playing surface than natural grass fields for the softball and baseball teams. With turf you’re not dealing with depressions or bumps like real grass can have.
“I really don’t see any downsides of playing on a turf infield,” said Wheeler. “For us it’s just a different field and while we haven’t been able to actually go out there and field ground balls or take batting practice, it’s just a matter of getting used to the new infield and seeing the ball come off the bat.”
Over a 10-year period the school board expects to save around $10-15,000 in labor costs.
“It’s much more cost efficient for the school to make the transition to turf and we can then put that money we save into other parts of the school,” said Albertini. “I think this is the direction more schools in Southern Illinois begin going."