Residents backing an effort to install turf at Olentangy High School's football field say they're regrouping -- and hope to complete the project next winter.
If all goes according to plan, the high school will replace its grass football field with artificial turf immediately after the end of the football season, according to representatives of the Braves Field Fund.
Orange and Liberty high schools are ahead of that schedule; turf will be installed at those schools this summer.
But Braves Field Fund backer Lisa Laughlin said fundraising efforts for OHS soon will be in full swing.
"We're getting ready to bring in all the coaches and booster leadership and kind of regroup," she said. "We know we're a bit behind, but our goal is to raise the money here in the next few months and hopefully start the project at the end of the (football) season."
This spring, the Olentangy school board approved plans to install turf at the other two high schools during the summer.
Like those projects, the Olentangy High School field will be 100 percent privately funded with the help of private donations, booster contributions and loans.
In addition to being potentially safer and cheaper to maintain in the long run, Laughlin said the turf will give Olentangy a competitive advantage by allowing players to practice on turf, which is being adopted by many other schools in the region.
Because turf is durable, it will open the fields up to more frequent use. Currently, it's used exclusively for football games.
"We won't have to worry about the wear and tear, so we will gain the ability to have the field used daily by soccer, football and lacrosse teams, and even baseball players in the spring," Laughlin said.
Work on the Orange High School field is about to get under way, and it will be finished first, as early as mid-July. Construction is expected to begin for the Liberty High School field July 3 and finish by Aug. 10.
The Orange and Liberty fields will cost booster groups about $500,000 to install. Under the funding agreements, all risk falls on the boosters if the plan fails.
The fields are expected to last eight to 10 years before they need to be replaced at a cost of $250,000 to $300,000.
Proponents have said the district will save money overall thanks to lower maintenance costs associated with the turf, because it doesn't have to be watered, fertilized, mowed or otherwise maintained as grass does.
The turf project has been ongoing for more than two years. It ran into a hurdle last summer after the school board unanimously rejected a proposed plan to help finance the cost of the fields.