To New Albany High School boys soccer coach Ben Arthurs, the artificial turf being installed at the school's stadium isn't about prestige.
"We're a growing district and we're expanding at such a rate that this student body needs current equipment to be the best it can be," Arthurs said. "So many Division I programs have (turf fields) and we need to get to where everyone else is."
Workers began ripping up the former grass surface Nov. 8. Ken Stark, the school district's director of operations, said the artificial turf installation should be completed within six to eight weeks, barring weather delays.
"I've been here six-and-a- half years, and it's been on our radar screen the whole time," Stark said. "One of the things was the (school) board didn't think it could spend the money it would take from its general operating revenue, so that's where our boosters took over."
The New Albany Athletic Boosters told the school board at its Sept. 24 meeting that it raised $623,000, with another $23,500 committed, during a four-year fundraising campaign. The estimated cost to install the new playing surface, which is being done by the Cincinnati firm The Motz Group, is $600,000.
The school board voted to accept the donation of "a 100-percent privately funded and completed artificial turf field to be installed in the New Albany High School stadium and the accompanying eight-year warranty."
The stadium also will be renamed Veterans Field, and veterans are expected to receive free admission to all events.
The field is expected to last 10 years and could cost an estimated $300,000 to replace, boosters club member Stuart Burgdoerfer told the board in September. The boosters will contribute $15,000 annually to a turf-replacement fund maintained by the district.
Bexley in 2001 became the first area high school to install turf. Dublin Scioto, Dublin Coffman, Upper Arlington and Dublin Jerome followed suit within the next three years, and several other schools have done so since.
"We spent a lot of time looking at what other districts did and making comparisons," said booster club co-president Tim Cline, referring to a committee that also consisted of Stark, donor Ken Krebs and athletics director Kevin Reed. "We wanted to see it live, walk on it, feel it."
Eagles coaches and athletes needed only to refer to previous experiences on turf fields to know how much they wanted one for New Albany.
"Our programs here are very excited," Arthurs said. "From a soccer standpoint, just to have that true bounce and true field is huge. Passes are more effective. It just enhances the overall ability to play the game."
Stark said part of the impetus behind changing the turf during the cold-weather months is having the ability in the spring for the baseball and softball teams to conduct outdoor workouts on the surface even if their fields are unplayable. Area recreational leagues also will have access to the stadium.
While the boys and girls lacrosse teams will play their 2013 seasons on the new surface in the spring, Stark said a formal grand opening will take place before the 2013 football opener.
"We hope people don't think of it as just a football field," Cline said. "It's for the whole community."