Perrysburg assistant athletic director Dave Hall, center, checks out the new stadium surface with Maumee Bay Turf Company's Brad Morrison, left, and P.J. Kapfhammer.
A “turf” war is beginning to shape up in northwest Ohio.
This past summer three area high schools — Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg and Springfield — replaced the traditional grass surfaces of their main stadia with synthetic turf surfaces.
Ottawa Hills athletic director Tim Erickson said there are several reasons for the move away from grass.
“One benefit is that there are no bad hops or bad bounces on turf,” he said. “Second, turf takes the weather out of the equation for performance. You don't worry about standing water or mud — lightning is the only thing that will stop us.
“Third is the usability factor. More people can use the turf, and it will stay in better shape. You can water, fertilize and mow all you want, but the turf will be easier to manage.”
To install their turf field, both Ottawa Hills and Perrysburg worked with a local company, Maumee Bay Turf Center in Oregon. The co-owners of the company — Brad Morrison, a former volleyball and basketball coach at Northwood, and P.J. Kapfhammer — both say any turf project takes both time and attention to detail.
“The first thing we do is tear out all the old turf, and we cut roughly three feet into the ground,” Morrison explained. “It takes about 1,500 truckloads to remove all the old turf. We spend all day digging. We even eat on the digger just to keep working.
“The next step is to install the drainage system. For that we put in stone and the drainage equipment, and then we grade everything before we start to lay the turf.”
The key to laying the turf, according to Morrison, is making sure the field is perfectly level during installation.
Michael Geiger works out on the new artificial turf at Ottawa Hills' stadium. Thesurface cost about $656,000. It will be used for football, soccer and field hockey.
“You can't be even a quarter-inch off when you're trying to level the field for turf,” Morrison said. “We'll use a GPS satellite to make sure it's level, and we stretch piano wire taunt to keep it level.
“We'll bring all 30 of our full-time employees in, and they're all on their hands and knees, leveling the field by hand just like finishing concrete.”
Morrison said Maumee Bay Turf enjoyed the unique visibility that working on two local projects provided.
“With [Perrysburg's Steinecker Stadium] right next to I-75, I was getting text messages and e-mails daily about the project,” Morrison said. “And withOttawa Hills, we had a web cam installed so people could see the work. It was a very tight work site, so we couldn't have people come out and watch with liability issues, so the web cam worked out great.”
Erickson said it was a benefit to work with a local company on the project.
“First, they know that they are going to see their work all of the time — and so will everyone else,” Erickson said. “But they also were responsive, answering our every question and deal with our every need. When they said something would happen, it happened.”
The result for both schools is a surface that should withstand extended use during the fall sports season.
“We could have as many as 50 different events on the field this year when you consider football, soccer and field hockey,” said Erickson, who said the Niedermeier Stadium field also will be used by junior high teams and for practices.
“We're land-locked, so there is a limited amount of grass fields for games and practices. We just couldn't grow grass fast enough to keep everything in top shape.”
The cost for the project at Ottawa Hills is roughly $656,000, while the Perrysburg work will cost roughly $673,000. While that's a much greater cost than the roughly $120,000 a school might pay to resod a stadium, the grass will last only a few years and will require mowing and other treatments, not to mention painting of lines — all of which also costs money.
“We expect that we'll save a minimum of $30,000 this year on the costs such as mowing and lining the fields,” Perrysburg athletic director Ray Pohlman said. “And that doesn't count other costs such as paying for sprinkler heads that break or mowers that need repair.
“And think about this: last Friday night it rained, so there are a lot of fields that were damaged after just one game. We don't have that worry.”
Both schools solicited funding from private sources. Erickson said the Ottawa Hills project was led by John Day and Sandy Brown, who chaired the athletic boosters' Grassroots Turf Project.
At Perrysburg, former board of education member Ken Widdel took out a $500,000 life insurance policy and named the school's booster club as beneficiary. That policy was the bedrock of the school's fund-raising efforts. The field was named Widdel Field in appreciation.
The end result for all three schools is a renewed excitement for the start of the season.
“Soon after the turf was installed, I got a call telling me that 10 of our kids had hopped over the fence and were on the field,” Pohlman said. “They are good kids, and they didn't mean any harm, but I had to go out and shoo them off the field because technically they were trespassing.
“But they were excited to try it out even before practices started. That's why I'm sure this is something we can all take pride in — and all take pride in taking care of.”
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6481.
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