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Case Studies: Sports Fields


The Cotting School

Lexington, Massachusetts

Founded in 1893, Cotting School was the first day school of its kind for students with physical disabilities. Now recognized as a national model of excellence in special education, the school’s mission is to enable students with special needs to achieve their highest learning potential and level of independence. Serving 120 students from ages 3 – 22 from Massachusetts and surrounding areas, the school’s accessible building and innovative curriculum took care of many of their needs – except for the chance to participate in outdoor activities, which the Centers for Disease Control notes are important to the physical well-being of kids and people of all ages. The lack of an accessible outdoor field presented problems for many children, particularly those who use wheelchairs and walkers. The school couldn’t offer developmentally-appropriate games for our students, or outdoor and fresh-air sports such as baseball, track, and soccer that make such a difference with a child’s overall health. The old grass playing field unusable by so many of the students was located adjacent to wetlands.

When Connelly Field opened in September 2009, the entire school body gathered for all-student soccer games involving teams that mixed ages and abilities. The most incredible impact is that for many students who use walkers or wheelchairs, this was the first time in their lives they could play outdoor sports. The Cotting School was the 2012 Grand Prize Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

Piqua High School

Piqua, Ohio

Case Study: Piqua HSIn the fall of 1999, a group of Piqua football enthusiasts decided that their existing gridiron facility was inadequate for the outstanding football program. Previous efforts to organize a committee to deal with the facility were unsuccessful, but this time a group of community leaders felt the timing was right for a stadium building project to replace the current football facility built in 1938. It was obvious from the start that it was going to be a huge challenge, especially when the Piqua City Schools Board of Education endorsed the concept, but stated very clearly that no tax dollars would be available for what was estimated to be a $3 million facility. Under the leadership of the committee, with the cooperation of the Piqua Community Foundation, the stadium project soon gained a great deal of momentum, thanks to a $1.5 million gift from a local citizen. Since then, Piqua High School fans and athletes have been proud to call their new synthetic turf "Field of Dreams” home.

The addition of synthetic turf offered us four advantages over natural grass. It provided all of the Piqua football teams with a practice area during inclement weather. It could be used for junior and senior high physical education classes. It provided an area for other interscholastic sports activities and it eliminated our concerns with mud, mowing and ongoing maintenance. The new synthetic turf also allowed for continued use for school band competitions, Lehman Catholic High School football contests, graduation and community use, which in the past had included Relay For Life and Little League football tournament games. Piqua High School was the 2012 Top Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

Van Horn High School

Independence, Missouri

Case Study: Van Horn HSVan Horn High School was a failing school in Kansas City with a high dropout rate, low test scores, truancy, and a neglected athletic program. In fact, the Falcons had not played a home football or soccer game in 37 years. The fields sat, overgrown, leaving little in the way of being able to develop the programs. Following an election and a court battle, Van Horn and six other schools were annexed into the Independence, Missouri school district in 2007. Only 12 staffers were retained in those seven schools and the new teachers and administrators were hand picked. After acquiring the new schools and getting the academic programs on track, the system made the decision to purchase a new synthetic turf field for the Van Horn Falcons. Since the changes were made, the school now boats a 95% graduation rate. Last Fall, the Falcons played their first home football game in nearly four decades.

Having an athletic program was and is important to Van Horn High School in the development of these young men and women and having adequate athletic facilities were a part of that. Football and soccer were not the only reasons they needed a new field. Being able to host games, football practices, soccer practices and games, band practice, and physical education classes were some of the reasons prompting the installation of the new field. With a grass field, it’s impossible to host that many events. Van Horn High School was the 2011 Grand Prize Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

Tri-Valley High School

Dresden, Ohio

The small town of Dresden, Ohio prospered for many years because of a local basket manufacturer. But within the last ten years, that prosperity turned to despair as the company cut its workforce from 8,000 to just over 1,000. The town needed a shot of adrenaline, something to rally around and be proud of again – Tri-Valley High School’s football program. The program grew after three winning seasons, but the game field was in bad shape after overuse and severe drainage issues. It constantly drew the ire of opposing coaches, as they feared their athletes would get injured as a result of the field conditions.

At the end of 2008, Tri-Valley High School decided to build on the momentum created by the football program and propose the field turf project to the school and community. Six months later, a new synthetic turf field was installed and everything changed. Student athletes have reaped all the benefits of playing on such a great surface. The football team is able to play and practice on a perfect surface every day. From soccer and band in the fall, to baseball, softball and track in the spring, our turf gets used on a daily basis. The drainage problems that were so prevalent on the old field are now nonexistent. Every Friday night in the fall of 2009, the townspeople forgot about their problems and shared the thrill of success, as they watched Tri-Valley Football complete a perfect 5-0 home record on their new synthetic turf field. Tri-Valley High School was the 2010 National Finalist of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

Salesian High School

Richmond, California

Case Study: Salesian HSIn a true story of David vs. Goliath, the football team at Salesian High School in Richmond, California went from the brink of closure to defeating an "unbeatable" team with players twice its size. It was Salesian’s first game on their brand new synthetic turf field – a field that is now being hailed the Grand Prize Winner of the Search for the Real Field of Dreams. Salesian High School unveiled its field for the varsity football Homecoming game in 2007. They were up against a school with three times as many students and an offensive line that looked like an NFL team. Nearly 1,000 fans packed the stands as Salesian High School defeated its opponent 40-37. The headline in the next day’s newspaper read, ‘David Slays Goliath.’

Located in a city with one of the country’s highest murder rates, the students at Salesian High focused their efforts on academics – the school boasts a graduation rate near 100 percent. And although 70 percent of students are involved in athletics, the conditions of their grass field were so poor that the soccer and football teams were on a three-year notice to be shut down. That all changed when the school raised funds to install a synthetic turf field. Salesian High School was the 2009 Grand Prize Winner of STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest.

Notre Dame Academy

Park Hills, Kentucky

Notre Dame Academy (NDA) in Park Hills, Kentucky is a 100-year-old all girls’ high school. Throughout its entire history, the school had never had its own athletic field or a home game, which caused significant issues for every administrator, coach, parent and student involved in outdoor sports. For decades, the coaches had to find facilities for every practice, with teams sometimes practicing on abandoned fields and empty playgrounds. To make some of these fields usable and safe, dedicated parents and coaches removed rocks and debris, cut grass and brought in truck loads of dirt to fill holes and smooth bumps. When NDA’s teams were "lucky,” they received permission to squeeze-in practice time at other schools after the home school had finished using its facilities and during one low point, the only available practice facilities were at a school in a neighboring state. Things changed dramatically after NDA supporters raised enough funds to install a synthetic turf field. It immediately opened the door to participation for dozens of young women, engendered achievement and expanded playing time in the community. After decades of begging for practice time at other schools, cleaning up trash and rocks off a field before practice and handing out directions to parents so that they could find the practice field, NDA could finally simply say, "practice today after school.” Practice at school solves numerous logistical problems, true homes games are a reality, enhanced school spirit is obvious, and, most importantly, more young women have become athletes. The new field and the increased opportunities to participate and play will no doubt save some from trouble, engender achievement in many and enrich all of the girls involved. Notre Dame Academy was the 2011 Top Winner in the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

Ridgeland High School

Rossville, Georgia


Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Georgia was created from combining two schools which closed. Football coach Mark Mariakis had brought the program into the spotlight by leading the team to three straight region championships and state playoff appearances. The school lies in the shadow of Lookout Mountain and is built into the ridges at its base. A failing drainage system, combined with water runoff from the ridges, resulted in the decline of the field. By the second half of the season over the past few years, the field has been virtually unplayable. Games found teams mired in up to six inches of mud, with players, coaches, and officials having to throw away shoes and cleats after games. Late season and playoff games have even been moved across the state line into Chattanooga, Tennessee. But that all changed when they installed a synthetic turf field. Practices are always held on a first-class surface, the school can count on game revenue from home games without the fear of not being able to host games, and the team continues to improve, winning another region championship in 2010 and advancing into the state playoffs. Players have also benefited by catching the eye of college scouts more than ever because of the school's success and because scouts can evaluate players on a surface that isn't primarily mud. Several Ridgeland players have received scholarships including two to the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina. Ridgeland High School was the 2011 National Finalist of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

Kiowa County High School

Greensburg, Kansas

On May 4, 2007, an EF-5 tornado obliterated 95% of Greensburg, Kansas. The schools and facilities were a total loss. All that was left of its football stadium was the field itself, and its surface was riddled with holes, gouges, and debris. Gone were the bleachers, the concession area, the lights, the goalposts and the fencing. Despite enormous challenges, school started in August of 2007, as previously planned. Trying to decide where to practice and where to play were issues that continually plagued administrators. For two years, competing at home was out of the question. While the school was very appreciative of neighboring towns that shared their sports facilities, small towns count on home games to build community pride and bring all ages together for a common goal. With so much loss, townspeople desperately needed a place to rally. Galvanized by this goal, a dream began to form in the minds of our school leaders: the dream of having not only a "home" field again, but the only synthetic 8-man turf in the state of Kansas. School administration, construction crews and everyone in town worked around the clock to finish before their home opener on September 4, 2009. Today the school proudly hosts sports competitions and the community youth football league uses it for their Saturday games. It truly shows what can happen when people dare to dream big. Kiowa County High School was the 2010 Grand Prize Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

John Wister Elementary School

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

John Wister Elementary School is located in the heart of Philadelphia, in an economically challenged area plagued by gunshots and murder that lacked safe play places. Like many city schools, there is no grassy area on the school yard and no field nearby for the children to play. As a result, Wister was a bare yard, void of life. Students were often hurt when trying to play football or gymnastic stunts and trips to the nurse were constant. With nothing to do, students often ended up fighting with each other for menial reasons and mostly due to boredom. The new field has had an immediate positive effect on everyone – the school, the students and the surrounding community. It has provided an incentive for students to not only come to school but to arrive on time to play on the turf. There is no more fighting because students have so much to do. Students are much more respectful of each other and automatically break themselves into groups to play in different areas simultaneously. The field provides the closest thing to grass that many of these children see day to day. It allows students to exert energy and release their frustration which helps to prepare them for the rest of their academic day. This once barren field is a place of opportunity, where students take ownership and pride in their schoolyard. Wister Elementary School was the 2010 Grand Prize Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

William Dick School

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ranging in age from five to 13, the students at William Dick School in Philadelphia arrive from homes with a poverty rate of over 90%. The empty school yard was filled with almost a full city block of broken concrete. When the Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership asked students what their dreams were for the school year, the children overwhelmingly said they wanted "grass.”They longed to be able to play their games on a safer surface when they had recess and came to play – during school, weekends, evenings and summer vacation. Since planting grass wasn't feasible, a synthetic turf field was installed in the far corner of the schoolyard in June 2007. The goal was to offer these children an area where students and the community could come to play football, tag and other games without worry of skinned knees or even worse injuries that had been seen so many times before. Opportunities for students to play against staff in games as well as physical education activities on the turf became part of the everyday experience. When students wanted more space to play, a local synthetic turf company sponsored a reading challenge at the school to make this happen. The field helps the school raise the bar with students academically and provide incentives for good behavior. It has also lead to strong social responsibility, as parents and neighbors monitor and keep the play area in great share during after-hours recreation. William Dick School was the 2010 Top Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Athletic Fields category.

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