2009 Winners of the Search for the real “Field of Dreams”
Before synthetic turf the mud pit at Zanesville High School was nothing but an eye sore. The school district could hardly afford to do more than mow the grass and empty the trash at the field, so the community came together to raise money for a synthetic turf field. Displaying the true power of community, Zanesville residents raised money for, and installed the field without the aide of any large donors. Now the school’s marching band now has an area to practice, the baseball team has a reliable place to hold outdoor practices and physical education classes can use the field every day. It’s also made a tremendous impact on the community. A spring flag-football program has begun – which never would have happened on the school’s old surface, and a small local Catholic High School rents the field for home football games to assist Zanesville in raising funds to complete the project.
John D. Sulsberger Memorial Stadium was constructed and opened in 1964 on the Zanesville High School campus to memorialize a former ZHS football star and student who had died of cancer during his freshman year at Ohio State. By the early part of this decade, about 40 years later, overuse and declining maintenance funds were taking their toll on the natural playing surface. Football games degenerated into mud-fests, soccer balls would roll poorly and bounce wildly, and fewer postseason events — important revenue streams for the school’s athletic department — were being assigned to the stadium. What was once the premier high school stadium in southeastern Ohio was becoming an embarrassment. But the school district did not have the funds to do much more than mow the grass and empty the trash. Signs the economy was headed into decline were manifesting themselves here ahead of most of the rest of the country, further compounding the problem. If a synthetic turf installation was going to happen — and a group of forward-thinking people decided it was time — it was going to have to be through private funding. It was a bold step forward, and one that certainly carried a significant amount of personal and professional risk.
After four months of construction, ZHS again has a facility to be proud of, and one that is far more useful than ever before. The football team can practice on the field every day, rain or shine, and not have to worry about “saving it” for Friday nights. Middle school and freshman football games were moved to the stadium, from the old stadium facility across town, creating a savings in rental fees and bus transportation. Soccer matches were played on a wider pitch, and the ball now rolled and bounced true. The marching band could get more than one on-field practice a week, and not worry that its prestigious annual band festival would be a washout. Physical education classes could use the field during the day, and did so regularly. Other sports, such as baseball, could utilize it for quality outdoor practices when their own natural-surface facilities were unusable. A springtime flag-football program for younger kids has begun — a program that would have never happened on the old natural surface, especially at this time of the year. It also helped bring the entire community together as the small local Catholic high school, Bishop Rosecrans, entered into an agreement to play their home football games at ZHS and also assist in raising the funds to complete the project. What’s more, the project has helped restore the belief that hard work and well-focused foresight can still mean success in our beleaguered community. And almost unbelievably, it was completed without the aid of any single, large donor — it is mostly being borne on the commitments of hundreds people spread out over a five-year period, and the in-kind efforts of several local businesses who lent their support with sweat and boots on the ground.
Our new synthetic surface has changed the attitudes of everyone. A high percentage of the student body gets to utilize it, from athletes to band members to phys-ed students. Parents have the peace of mind their children are participating on a field that is safe. And the community now has a facility that has been “restored” as a premier showplace. Most of all, because the Ohio High School Athletic Association chooses to use our well-located facility for post-season events in football and soccer, the pride in the facility and the new field itself is shared with many who venture to Zanesville to follow their own schools’ teams. A site assignment that once caused complaints is now met with rave reviews. And those events are critically important as a major revenue stream to support the entire ZHS athletics program. It has also helped improve our state’s perception of Zanesville. In fact, we have shared our project world wide — and hopefully inspired others to follow suit — with our Web site, www.sulsbergerstadium.com.
In 1964, Sulsberger Stadium was born as a “Field of Dreams” through a community-wide effort in the memory of a beloved native son. In 2008, another community-wide effort happened a second time as the new synthetic turf (as well as a new track, new lighting, new scoreboard and new sound system) transformed a decaying stadium into a 21st Century facility second to none. It has given our district much greater flexibility for its usage, and also allows for important cost savings necessary in these hard financial times. With our new high school beginning to rise on the hill above it, the stadium is once again a centerpiece to the entire Zanesville community, a community that has been reminded that yes, it can happen here.
Information posted at: http://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=145
About the Synthetic Turf Council – Founded in 2003, the Synthetic Turf Council is a non-profit association dedicated to serving as a resource for trustworthy information about synthetic turf. Our objective is to encourage, promote and facilitate better understanding among all parties involved in the manufacture, selection, delivery and use of today’s synthetic turf systems. To that end, we make every attempt to dispense information that is neutral, objective and validated by independent, current and credible research.
As an action-oriented organization, we promote high standards and high quality in our industry through a respected member certification program and strict code of ethics. Our annual member meetings provide a forum for cooperative learning and issue resolution, while outreach initiatives encourage cooperative relationships between industry and end-user organizations.
We invite input from synthetic turf buyers and users such as school officials, selection committees, sports authorities, risk managers and research organizations. We also encourage all companies in the synthetic turf industry to join the Synthetic Turf Council as either a Full Member or Affiliate Member to participate in shaping our industry.
STC Mission Statement – Committed to community wellness and environmental responsibility through the use of synthetic turf, the Synthetic Turf Council is the industry’s voice for promoting the highest ethical and professional standards, education, legislative and community advocacy.