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A synthetic field at Mike Callas stadium?

May 28, 2006|by John Williamson

While planning and raising funds for the Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School, we were asked by donors to the project to consider a synthetic field. We had never considered a synthetic field because most of us had a very negative impression of the first generation of synthetic fields, developed in the 1970s, called Astroturf.

Several months ago, Don Fulmer, athletic director of Chambersburg (Pa.) High School, attended one of our meetings to share information on the rebuilding of their stadium. He told us that they were installing a synthetic field because they could significantly increase the usage of the facility while saving on the cost of maintenance.

The synthetic fields today are vastly improved over Astroturf. Fulmer told us that eight of the 10 schools on their schedule next year had synthetic fields and he encouraged us to investigate them because they were very cost-effective.

A team of individuals representing the stadium committee, the Board of Education, the county government and Callas Contractors made trips to Fort Hill High School in Cumberland, Md., and to Hollidaysburg and Central York high schools in Pennsylvania. Fort Hill's synthetic field has been in place for eight years, while the other two schools have installed them in the past two years.

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At all three schools, their message was the same. They increased usage of the field from 50 to 70 times per year with grass to an unlimited usage with a synthetic field, while saving $30,000 to $50,000 per year on maintenance. All three schools expect their synthetic fields to last at least 12 years before they need to be replaced. Their high school teams, middle school teams and community football and soccer teams use their fields constantly.

The capital cost for a synthetic field at Mike Callas Stadium will be paid for with private funds. Two years ago the BOE prepared a study showing that the cost of transporting teams from North High to School Stadium, which would be eliminated with a new stadium at North High, would equal the maintenance cost of a new grass field.

By installing a privately funded synthetic field, the annual maintenance cost savings could be applied to the cost of replacement in 12 years and would cover approximately three fourths of the cost. By charging a nominal fee for usage, we believe we can accumulate the remaining funds necessary for replacement.

The vision of the stadium committee has always been to raise money for a facility that could be used by North High as well as the community. This was reinforced when we decided to name the facility after Mike Callas.

This facility is not North High Stadium, but Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School. The employees of Conservit, which is employee- owned, will donate $250,000 if we install a synthetic field, so there will be no cost to the taxpayer. North High will have priority use, but the community will be able to use the facility based on School Board policy.

The stadium committee is grateful to Conservit and all of the donors who are helping to make what was once an impossible dream a reality.




John Williamson is a member of the Mike Callas Stadium Committee.

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