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The James Clemens Marching Band performs on Athens High School’s turf field during halftime at Friday’s Jets game against Hillcrest. Photo by JC Band Boosters

Parker indicates Madison City Stadium may have artificial turf field in near future

MADISON – Will Madison City Stadium soon have a turf field instead of natural grass? Last week’s football game between James Clemens and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa was moved to Athens, which has brought up the question once again.

The relocation was due to expected poor field conditions at Madison City Stadium from heavy rains. School officials said they want the field to be in the best possible condition for James Clemens’ game on Friday against Vestavia in the first round of the state playoffs.

“We are grateful Athens is making its field available,” Madison City Schools superintendent Robby Parker said. “Their stadium has artificial turf. We have used Milton Frank’s turf field in the past but it wasn’t available at a convenient time for the game.”

Parker said this marked the fourth time in five years the school district had to move a game because the city stadium’s  natural grass field just can’t hold up to all the play.

“The reason is because it is used so often,” Parker said. “Bob Jones and James Clemens are the only two 7A schools in the state to share a stadium that uses natural grass. Recovery time is slowed with frequent use.”

He also said the MCS school board will soon have discussions about adding artificial turf to the stadium. “We have budgeted the cost into the price of the new middle school,” Parker said.

The middle school, which will be located behind the Central Office, will also use the stadium for their mid-week games. “There is no way natural grass could hold up adding another team,” he continued. “Turf fields are engineered for better wear and unlimited use through a variety of weather conditions. They also require little or no maintenance.”

Parker said a study he led as assistant superintendent a couple years ago found that while the initial cost of installing a turf field is more costly than natural grass, the school district could realize a net savings of $135,000 over a 10-year period in maintenance costs. Over a 20 year period, cost savings would be over $340,000.

“Our grass field has served us well since Madison City Stadium opened in 2003,” Parker said. “Our stadium is by far my favorite stadium. The layout makes for a great atmosphere, and it has good crowd flow. It isn’t too big and is always full. We will continue to upgrade seating and other areas so our kids can experience a big time atmosphere each week.”

“As our school system has grown, so, too, has the wear-and-tear on our field. Both high schools play football and soccer there, as do Liberty and Discovery middle schools when they play each other or get in playoffs. Our school marching bands also have events on the field. All of this is wear and tear on the playing surface, with sometimes little time for the grass to rebuild between events.”

The district’s landscaping crews led by Robin Gaines do an amazing job restoring the playing field for events, said Parker. “The grass is green and painting is sharp,” he added. “What the crowd may not see is a mushy base if drainage hasn’t fully occurred. The playing field under those circumstances is at best not optimum and at worst dangerous for our kids.”

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