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Artificial turf scores with city panel in Martinsburg

June 14, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Saying it would be the "palace of athletics in the Eastern Panhandle," Martinsburg city officials were briefed Wednesday on a proposal to spend $1 million to put artificial turf on Martinsburg High School's Cobourn Field.

Two supporters who are working to raise money for the project are asking the city for $150,000, and members of the Martinsburg City Council's budget and finance committee agreed Wednesday afternoon to recommend that the council fund the request.

The council will consider the request June 28.

Greg Reed, athletic director at Martinsburg High School, told committee members he was disappointed with the conditions of Cobourn Field after he came here about four years ago. The field has a grass surface, and Reed said school officials always are turning down requests to use the field to protect its surface.

Not only would putting an artificial turf allow the school to open it up to more use, but it could lead to the facility being used for championship events that would boost the area's economy, according to Reed and Russ Potts, a Virginia state senator who has been working to raise money for the project.

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"This would be the palace of athletics in the Eastern Panhandle," said Potts, whose wife attended Martinsburg High School.

Potts said $765,000 has been raised through sources such as anonymous donations, and Reed said he is confident the remaining $85,000 will be raised if the city council donates $150,000.

In fact, Reed said he hopes work on the new surface can begin in about a week, and project organizers are working with city regulatory officials on details. Officials hope the new surface can be installed by Aug. 24, when Martinsburg's football season begins, Reed said.

Reed said many improvements already have been made to the field such as new lighting, press box and scoreboard.

"This is one of the final pieces to this puzzle," Reed said.

City Councilman Gregg Wachtel, a member of the budget and finance committee, said there have been special bank loans set up for people who want to make donations for the project.

City Councilman Max Parkinson said he wants to make sure the field is managed well to protect the investment. Reed said there has been some discussion of hiring a security guard to protect it, although he said he thinks people are reluctant to vandalize the field since so many people are at the facility on a regular basis to walk and enjoy other activities.

The surface will last about 10 years, and it is hoped a trust fund can be established to save money to replace it, although that will not be as large of a project, Potts said.

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