SALINEVILLE-Fans who attend football games this fall at Southern Local High School will be treated to a vastly upgraded facility.
Work is currently underway to replace to the natural grass at the football stadium with a new synthetic field turf. The new playing surface comes in addition to a host of other facility changes. The visitors side bleachers will be completely replaced, while new bleachers will be added to both ends of the home side. A new field house which will hold a weight room and wrestling facilities is also under construction. On top of that, the running track will receive asphalt and 100 additional parking spaces will be added.
"Last football season really highlighted how much we needed to make improvements to our facility," Superintendent John Wilson said. "This project is something we feel will benefit the students of Southern Local and the community for a long time."
Wilson cited an accident after a football game a couple of years ago in which a girl was struck by a car as the main motivation behind expanding the parking area. At a January meeting to discuss the issue, Wilson also said that the visitors side bleachers had sunk so low that people could not get an adequate view of the game and that the field had "virtually not been worked on since it was installed in 1962."
The football field improvements are scheduled to be completed by August 1, with the fieldhouse set to be finished by mid-September. The total cost for the project came out to slightly more than $1 million.
According to Wilson, the money came from moving 2 inside mills (which is guaranteed money from the state) from the current expense fund to the permanent improvement fund. The millage move was approved at a March 6 board meeting and resulted in an unvoted tax increase which will cost owners of a $50,000 home an extra $22.97 a year and owners of a $150,000 home $66.91 according to Wilson's calculations. The 2 mills is expected to generate $164,000 for the district.
The turf is being installed by The Motz Group out of Cincinnati, which has also supplied turf to Ohio State University and the Cincinnati Reds among others.
Football coach Mike Skrinjar echoed Wilson's remarks about the need for an upgrade.
"This was something that our field has needed for a long time now," Skrinjar said. "With artificial turf the field can be used a lot more often and we are excited to play on it. I give a lot of credit to John Wilson for putting all of this together."
Before the issue was approved, Wilson hosted several public meetings to gauge interest in the unvoted tax increase. He said that views were and remain generally positive.
"You are never going to please everybody," Wilson said. "Some folks don't believe that we need the stadium improvements or don't like how the money was raised but a lot of people are also pretty excited about it. We think this new facility is something the community can be proud of."