Remember when I wrote this two years ago? My dream of one day having turf at Orrville's Red Rider Stadium. Seemed like the biggest pipe dream ever at the time, right?
But it appears that this "dream" is about to become a reality, perhaps as early as THIS summer!!
I'm happy to announce that a committee of Orrville citizens, alumni and fans, formed back in January of 2012 to explore bringing turf to the home of the Red Riders, has secured a large portion of the necessaary funds thorugh a period of "silent" fundraising.
The project is now public, dubbed the "Team up for Turf" drive and you'll read about it in upcoming issues of OrrViews and The Daily Record. As of the week of May 29th, around $440,000 has been pledged, paving the way for the start of the project to remove the existing sod at Red Rider Stadium and install an artificial turf playing surface as well as a new 8-lane track surface. The goal of the entire project is to raise $750,000 for the installation of an artificial turf field and to establish a "stadium fund" for future improvements.
It is hoped that the project will move forward in late June and work on the field will begin while the final donation are sought. The plan is for the field to be ready for the first home game of the season (Week 2) vs. Triway.
First and foremost...let me be 100% clear...not ONE DIME of taxpayer money will be used to fund the turf portion of the project. This is a private fundraising effort with 100% of the monies being privately donated from businesses & individuals.
The balance of the funds for the project will be sought from Orrville citizens, business owners and OHS alumni.
The track portion of the project was already slated to be done in the summer of 2013, but it was decided to do both projects at once, a cost savings of roughly $10,000-15,000. The cost of the track replacement will be paid for with permanent improvement dollars. The track was beyond it's useful life and in danger of becoming unsafe. It's the main reason why Orrville did not host this year's OHSAA district meet.
Why turf and why now?
Simply put, Red Rider Stadium is in the middle of what will soon be a beautiful academic campus with all 3 buildings (elementary, middle and high school) being within walking distance of each other. There is a need for a facility that can be used more often. Currently, because of the condition of the grass at the stadium, only 15-20 events can be held there per year. When you compare that to the costs of the constant upkeep that a grass field requires (mowing, fertilizing, watering, striping), the cost per use of the field is very high.
With a turf field, events can be held daily if need be, and in some cases, multiple events per day. Imagine being able to hold a freshman football game on a turf field on a Thursday afternoon and then a varsity soccer game that evening, then a varsity football game on Friday night and a JV football game on Saturday. Could our grass field hold up to that kind of use? We were barely able to host the playoff game last football season due to the condition of the field. With a turf field, this problem would be eliminated.
All levels of Orrville football (7th, 8th, freshman, JV & varsity) will be able to use the field without worry of the field falling apart, especially in the later portion of the season.
I mentioned soccer above...and yes, this field will contain soccer lines and soccer matches will be held there. The current soccer field (behind the Boys & Girls Club) does not have lights, and it's the only OCC soccer field that does not have the ability to host night games. The support of the soccer program at Orrville could only increase with being able to host games at the stadium and in some cases, under the lights. Student support would increase as well, and maybe participation in soccer too.
Another group to benefit from turf would be the OHS band. With the construction of the new high school, the band has no practice space to rehearse routines before Friday night halftime performances. With a turf field, they would have this space as well as being able to continue hosting the Orrville Band Show.
Sports like baseball and softball could hold preseason workouts on the turf during the wet Ohio spring weather. Community events like the Smith Dairy Track Meet and the Relay for Life could take advantage of a turf infield as well as Orrville Boys and Girls Club events (tackle football, soccer, flag football, etc.).
There is also a potential to host OHSAA football and soccer playoff games, which would generate extra revenue for the athletic department as well as various school groups.
This is much more than just a football project.
The next step?
As mentioned above, support from the Orrville business community has gotten us a big part of the way, but we will not achieve this goal without the support of Red Rider Nation. Just because you will probably see construction activity at the stadium in the next 4-6 weeks, doesn't mean that the project is paid for. We need everyone's support to fully fund this project. A website has been set up with more information and a link to donate via PayPal. The website is http://www.redriderturf.com/. There is no such thing as a donation that is too small. Every bit helps us get closer to the goal. There is also a Facebook page where we will be posting details about the project as it progresses.
If you're not the PayPal type, donations can be mailed to the Orrville Booster Club.
ALL CONTRIBUTIONS WILL FUNNEL THROUGH THE BOOSTER CLUB, MEANING ANY CONTRIBUTION MADE WILL BE TAX DEDUCTIBLE.
There have already been countless hours spent on this project by committee members and we would be nowhere close to this project becoming a reality without the hard work of the committee...many of whom have helped in past fundriasing ventures (multi-purpose building, etc.).
Obviously, this will be the big Red Rider story of the summer, and I'll bring you all the details as they're released. This is almost too exciting to write about. Can't wait to see this thing progress. Not that it matters, but this will be the first high school turf field in Wayne County, and one of the few public schools in the area to have turf.