When the Whitehall-Yearling High School Rams take to the gridiron in August, they'll do so under new lights and on a new artificial-turf field.
Whitehall school board members made it official Feb. 21, unanimously approving two contracts in excess of $1 million.
The 5-0 vote approved a contract with the Motz Group for $798,500 for the installation of a synthetic, multipurpose turf field at the high school, 675 S. Yearling Road.
The board also approved a contract for $260,225 with Musco Sports Lighting for the removal of four existing light standards at the football field and the installation of four new light standards.
Though there is no "drop-dead" date to complete the work or a contingency for unseen delays, according to Superintendent Brian Hamler, the district does not believe the Rams' home-opening football game Aug. 23 against Westerville North High School is in question.
"We anticipate the field being done by the middle of July," Hamler said.
The revenue to pay for the upgrades is provided, in part, by the 3.41-mill combined permanent-improvement levy and bond issue voters approved in November.
"Most (high) schools (in central Ohio) have artificial turf," said Bill Hughett, Whitehall's athletics director.
There are multiple advantages to artificial turf, Hughett said.
With natural turf, the district misses out on opportunities to host Ohio High School Athletic Association playoff games as a neutral site and also loses out on the chance to lease its facility to other schools, Hughett said.
In the past, Whitehall has been required to play road games in lieu of home games, losing revenue and home-field advantage, when its home games are canceled because of poor field conditions, Hughett said.
Playing on natural turf also can lead to injury, from slips on wet grass to trips on divots or sprinkler heads, he said.
"I think it's a great step forward, and I am proud of the direction of our programs," Hughett said about the benefits the turf field would provide the school's football and soccer teams and other sports clubs.