The coaches at Columbus Academy had grown accustomed to practicing and playing on soggy fields whenever it would rain.
However, that should change with the installation of a pair of artificial turf fields.
A project to replace the grass in the school's football stadium with turf got underway June 9, and a project to install turf in a second practice/competition field adjacent to a grass field began May 21.
FieldTurf, whose head corporate office is located in Calhoun, Ga., is overseeing both projects, which are expected to be completed by Aug. 15, according to Doug Bennett, Academy's director of facilities and grounds.
Jim Collis, who coaches the football and baseball teams, believes both programs will benefit from the projects. The football team will be able to practice and play on the state-of-the-art surface, while the baseball team can utilize the turf field for practice when its grass field is deemed unusable.
"We won't have to worry about the conditions outside," Collis said. "It makes practice more organized. You know that you will be able to get things done, regardless of the weather. With how it's revolutionized now and the shape that the turf is in, it's nice and it's been a long-time coming."
Anne Horton, who coaches the girls lacrosse and field hockey teams, also expects both of her programs to benefit from the turf fields.
"I am super excited about the addition of turf," she said. "I am very fortunate that my current grass field is exceptional, but to also have the ability to train on turf will further enhance the skill level of our players. We already compete against many turf-related programs, so this will help our programs to be better prepared for seasonal play."
Among the area high schools that have replaced the grass in their football stadiums with turf are Bexley, DeSales, Grandview, New Albany, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and all three Dublin schools (Coffman, Jerome and Scioto). In most cases, schools use their football fields for lacrosse, field hockey and soccer.
"In regards to field hockey, there is a different style of play on grass versus turf," Horton said. "We will now have more of an opportunity to develop turf skills on a consistent basis. Most postseason play has now moved to schools that have turf fields, so I am thrilled that we can train on turf during this critical time frame, plus becoming a potential host site for tournament play."
The estimated cost of the two projects is $1,250,000, with most of the funding being provided by donations from two Academy families.
Full funding of the turf for the football stadium came in the form of a family gift from John and Linda Hondros and their four children, Morgan, Cody (2000 Academy graduate), Kelly (2006) and Hobie (2008). To recognize their gift, the school's board of trustees voted to rename the stadium Hondros Field. The track surrounding the field will retain its name in memory of Mike Marsh.
Another Academy family, which wishes to remain anonymous, pledged one-half of the funding for the second turf field. The school continues to raise money for the remaining cost of the second field.
"It's such a great addition to have two turf fields," athletics director Dominic Facciolla said. "With our wet spring, we were almost on a daily basis canceling, rescheduling lacrosse games. With turf fields, we would have played just about every single game we postponed and we postponed many. In the fall, we have four varsity programs that use fields and, to be able to have access to the turf fields where the rain isn't an element, turf is great to eliminate that factor."
According to Melissa Soderberg, Academy's head of school, the school's student-athletes won't be the only beneficiaries of the turf fields. The fields also will be made available to area youth groups for sports clinics and camps.
"While the Columbus Academy community will experience tremendous benefits from the quality and durability of these fields, their presence will also afford the school the chance to invite specialty clinics and camps as well as youth groups from around central Ohio that do not have the opportunity to play on regularly-maintained fields to use our facilities for their events and needs," Soderberg said.