DAHLONEGA, GA—According to a report by Matt Aiken of the Dahlonega Nugget, last week the Lumpkin County Board of Education unanimously approved a new $654,000 artificial playing surface for the high school football field. Members of the Lumpkin County Football Touchdown Club in attendance at the early morning work session applauded the decision to replace the current natural grass field with the synthetic grass of FieldTurf. The Indians will now be the only team in the region playing on such a surface. In fact, to find another FieldTurf playing field, one must travel to the Atlanta Falcon’s training facility at Flowery Branch.
The bulk of the price tag for this project will be covered by two donors who are currently choosing to remain anonymous. They have stipulated that the funds go specifically to such a project. One donor will contribute $400,000 over a two-year period. The second donor will contribute $72,000 over the next five years. A total of $80,000 will be covered by funds raised by the Touchdown Club which will be paid at a rate of $10,000 a year. Certain members of the club have agree to cosign on the project in order to guarantee payment regardless of Touchdown Club turnover. This leaves $120,000 that will be covered by local taxpayers. However, this number will not result in a tax increase since it is the amount of money that is currently budgeted for the next eight years of field maintenance costs. “The only thing that we are asking is the commitment for the board of education is the same commitment they’ve been putting forward for the maintenance of the field,” said LCHS Principal Tracy Sanford. The school board agreed to will pay the $120,000 up front instead of $20,000 the next eight years. Board member Lee Gaddis pointed out that such a move may end up saving the school system in the long run. “If we can lock that down for eight years, we lock down inflation,” he said. The FieldTurf surface will remain under warranty for eight years but has been predicted to last at least 12. Since the new turf will require less maintenance the savings will go to the field’s future replacement, a cost that could exceed $500,000. “We should have enough money in the bank that even if the Board of Education had to replace the field after eight years…then it still would only cost $25,000 per year,” said Sanford. Superintendent Dewey Moye recommended the approval of the new playing surface only after introducing a lengthy list of stipulations. “We’re going to tie every stipulation imaginable to the installation of this,” he said. “It’s going to be by-the-book.” This includes the requirement that FieldTurf provides everything from a guaranteed installation date to a written plan for disposal when the field wears out. In addition, all maintenance needs for the field will now be coordinated by Sanford and LCHS Athletic Director John McCary who will work with the Touchdown Club. During the meeting, some board members expressed concerns that a hot summer day can feel more than 10 degrees hotter on artificial turf. “Let’s say it’s a 95 degree day and the sun’s beating on it, what temperature would the turf get?” asked Gaddis. “110 degrees,” replied FieldTurf rep Daryl Martin. McCary responded by saying that such temperatures will require sound judgment when it comes to practice times. However, he pointed out that the surface of the current field has been measured at similar temperatures as well. “As hard as our fields are now, it’s like the old time ovens,” he said. “They bake and they get hot. We’ve just got to use common sense and we have a heat policy that we’ll continue to follow.” On Monday, Moye acknowledged that he has heard all sides of the arguments surrounding the proposal since the subject was originally broached in February. Some have said that such funds should go to strictly to academics, while others argued that the school board could lose the donation by delaying action. “It’s pros and con both ways,” said Moye. “People don’t really know enough about turf right now. It’s new on the market.”