Fort Payne High School recently announced it will replace its football, softball and baseball fields with synthetic turf.
During Thursday night’s meeting of the Fort Payne City Schools Board of Education, Superintendent Brian Jett made the ambitious announcement, saying it was something he had wanted to do for many years during his time as principal.
The project will replace the natural field in Wildcat stadium with new turf, along with a revamp of the track and new placement of track events. It will also see the total renovation of the baseball and softball fields.
The bid from Warners Athletic Construction for the project totals more than $3.3 million, and was approved during Thursday night's meeting.
Jett said this bid amount includes demolition, drainage, subbase, turf, athletic equipment that will go along with the new facility, fencing, concrete and more.
“This will get our facility back up to par with other 6A facilities in our area, actually in the state,” Jett said.
For baseball and softball, both facilities will see new warm up and pitching pits on the home side and visitor side, along with a new hitting area.
Although maintenance will be much lower than the current natural fields, Jett said the coaches will need to be trained on the everyday upkeep and yearly needs of the fields.
“We won’t be using nearly as many chemicals on these fields,” said Jimmy Durham, Fort Payne City Schools Board of Education president. “I think this is great. I know we do a lot for our academics here on campus and our school system but this is something that has been needed for a long time just to stay competitive with other schools that we play.”
Another aspect that appealed to the board includes the new opportunity for Fort Payne’s soccer teams. Jett reminded the audience and board of the number of soccer games that have had to be canceled due to weather in years past.
“Yearly, we would have anywhere from four to as many as eight soccer games that we had to totally cancel,” he said. “What would happen with most of them, is the coaches would get with someone who had a turf synthetic field and that is where they would go and play. So, it will help us with travel, as well. We wouldn’t be canceling our home events, people would be coming to our home events.”
This would in turn bring in more revenue for the system and give the soccer teams a consistent place to play, Durham added.
“You would be able to play football, you would be able to play boys and girls soccer, and this would allow us not to cancel events inside the stadium like we have before because of inclement weather unless there’s lightning,” Jett said. “You just give it a little bit of time, 20 to 30 minutes, for everything to totally drain and it’s ready to go. Band will also be able to take advantage of this.”
Along with accepting the bid for the synthetic fields, the board also approved two bids from Sourcewell Contract to construct a visitor press box at Wildcat Stadium and bleachers and seats for the softball and baseball fields.
It was also announced and approved Thursday for the board to purchase 12 new interactive virtual driver simulators for the high school.
“This is my 26th year, and the simulators have been there for probably about 30 something years,” Jett said. “This would update our driving simulators. Each individual [student] would be able to run through different scenarios. There’s an LED board and it’s going to have foot pedals. It’s equipped with a steering wheel, so each individual station can be carried through a virtual driving simulation. All 12 of those can be going on different patterns, whether it's parallel parking, driving in inclement weather, driving in traffic, it’s just another layer of updating our facilities.”
Editor’s Note: In Thursday’s meeting, the 2021-2022 Five Year Capital Plan and the FY2022 Budget and salary schedules were also approved, along with personnel changes. Look for a full story on these items in an upcoming edition of The Times-Journal.