Retired Jonathan Alder High School head football coaches Steve Coate, left, and Barry Blackstone are pictured on the new turf at Volunteer Field. Coate and Blackstone led the Pioneers to numerous state playoff berths.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
“This is amazing… it was a great opportunity for us and it took a community effort to pull it together.”
Those were the words of Jonathan Alder High School athletic director Tom Vargo Thursday evening when the school’s new turf sports field was dedicated.
A ceremony was held in which the marching band played and district officials spoke.
Fall sports teams were introduced by pictures and sound on the new state-of-the-art scoreboard.
The turf project at Volunteer Field began when several district residents went before the board of education five years ago to speak about their dreams.
A committee began a fund raising campaign that netted a large portion of the money that was needed to finance the project that carried a nearly $600,000 price tag.
The turnaround for the new field came in a relatively short period of time.
Ground was broken on June 26 and the new “carpet” was installed on July 9 and 10.
“The new turf gives us so many more opportunities,” said Vargo. “In the past, we had to restrict the use of our grass field (cancelling some soccer games and team practices) in order to protect it later in the season.
“The grass field had been worn down by that time of the year,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about that now.”
The artificial surface also gives the district the opportunity to host neutral site state football playoff games, along with district tournament soccer contests in the fall and lacrosse in the spring.
“This is going to give us more opportunities to generate revenue,” said Vargo. “We will definitely put in a bid for hosting football playoff games.”
First-round playoff games can be played on grass fields, if the host team does not have turf.
After that, post-season contests are played on neutral locations that have artificial turf.
“Playoff games stopped being played on grass (except for first-round contests) eight or nine years ago,” said Vargo. “We never could put in a bid for hosting games.”
“The field looks great,” said Pioneer head coach Brett Glass. “It would be really nice if we could earn a playoff berth (now in Division III) and host a game on our new field.”
Thursday evening’s ceremony drew a large crowd, including former head coaches Steve Coate, Barry Blackstone and Dave Thieken.
Coate and Blackstone led the Pioneers to numerous post-season appearances, including 10 consecutive seasons.
“The field is really nice,” said Coate. “It’s been a while coming (to fruition).”
“The field is really great,” said Blackstone, “but look at that scoreboard.”
Vargo was asked if he ever thought he’d see Thursday’s ceremony.
“If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said no,” he said. “However, it’s all come together in the last five years.
“There has been a desire in the district to get this accomplished,” said Vargo. “People here believed they’d get it accomplished and it is done.”
The turf was also designed to host activities that aren’t sports-related.
Concerts can be held at the field, as well as family nights with movies shown on the scoreboard.
“I’ve already received calls from people in the community wanting to use the field for various events,” said Vargo.
“We’re still navigating those possibilities,” he said. “We’ve haven’t gotten past football, soccer and band.
“There is a lot of which to be proud at Jonathan Alder,” said Vargo. “This is just one of them.
“There are good people here and they work hard (for the district).”
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