Turf wars

Russell High School will have artificial turf on its football field.

The USD (Unified School District) 407 Board of Education today voted to approve a contract to lay down the new surface at Shaffer Field in time for the season opener September 5. A new track and improvements to the baseball diamond northeast of the football field were on the table, but due to an interpretation by the Kansas Association of School Boards, only the football field contract could be approved today.

The vote was razor thin, 4-3. I fully expected one of the board members, Raeleen Reinhardt, to vote no, because she has been a teacher in the Russell school district for a long time and she really doesn’t care for football, even though all three of her daughters played sports at RHS. Fortunately, board president Jerry Brown is a big sports booster, and he was key in pushing it through, as were superintendent David Couch, principal Larry Bernard and athletic director Sean Spoonts.

Russell has been a prolonged drought. Since I arrived in 2005, rainfall has been far below average, and there have been numerous occasions on which a water emergency has been declared by the city council, banning the use of all water for lawns, washing cars and anything else outdoors. Western Kansas–Russell to Colorado along I-70, and anything along and west of US 281–is semi-arid to begin with, and the drought has exacerbated maters. Green grass is next to impossible to find on the Shaffer Field gridiron, the field is as hard as a rock, and there are numerous holes, holes which are dangerous. If someone were to trip over a hole and blow out a knee or break an arm, they could have a legitimate case to sue the school district.

The turf will cost $860,000 to install. If the school district is spending at least $60,000 on field maintenance and the field will last 12 years, it will pay for itself.

I believe this is a win-win for all involved. Athletics are the public’s window to a school, since they aren’t allowed to roam the halls during a school day and sit in on algebra and chemistry classes. I doubt many in Russell have seen any other parts of Russell High School other than the athletic facilities, and this is the case I’m sure with many other schools. If the athletic facilities are first-rate, it will lead those in the community to have pride in their school, and in turn, it will be easier to convince voters to pass bond issues and support other improvements when they are needed.

To the naysayers, I’m sorry. I cannot agree with any of your complaints.

Then again, if Russell’s football team was a perennial playoff participant,there would be nowhere near the complaining. The Broncos have won four games in the last three seasons, haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006, and haven’t won a playoff game since 1979. Keep this in mind: Russell will have turf, and Beloit, which went to the Class 3A state championship game in 2013 and has won over 100 games under coach Greg Koenig since 2006, won’t.

The installation had better begin soon. When the clock strikes midnight in a few minutes, there will be all of 68 days until kickoff vs. Ellsworth.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on June 27, 2014, in Football, KSHSAA, Sports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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