By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
After months of sweat, rain and labor, the lush green field at George D. Covey Field in Coal City is finally ready for primetime.
“The grass is growing good,” Independence High School athletic director Rick Vass said. “It’s come in really good. We were able to get it aerated this past Wednesday and reseeded.”
On top of adding a new playing surface for the new-look Patriots, Independence was able to add a new drainage system for the field, which Vass admitted had been part of the problem in the past.
“We installed a new drainage system on the sidelines,” he said. “We had an old system before, and there wasn’t anything to drain into. So we installed it to our main system.”
This will, hopefully, prevent puddling that has plagued the home of the Patriots in the past.
Independence will open its new field on Sept. 20 when it hosts county rival Shady Spring. And that’s a relief for Patriots Nation.
“When we first announced what we were doing, there was a lot of skepticism from people about if we would have it ready in time for the season,” Vass said.
“We had talked over the summer about if we needed to, playing some games at Park (Middle School) or Van Meter (Woodrow Wilson’s stadium),” Vass added. “But I’ll be honest with you, I was never too worried about it. I figured we’d get it done.”
Vass admits that the field wouldn’t be where it is right now without the hard work of Independence assistant coach Bill Wood.
“Bill has been out there more than anybody working on it and keeping it mowed,” Vass said. “He’s been researching ways to do things on the Internet. He’s been a tremendous help, along with Jim Fraley, Cliff Warden and Jeff Shrewsbury.”
In addition to the playing surface, Covey Field will also feature its first scoreboard upgrade in more than 20 seasons, thanks to generous donations from Little General Stores and Coca-Cola.
“It’s a nice scoreboard,” Vass said of the new 24-by-8-foot addition. “Everything is wireless now.”
Minor renovations were completed to the pressbox, but Vass hopes to have more done in the following seasons.
“Right now, there’s not a lot of room in there,” he said. “We’re hoping to expand it so that the visiting team doesn’t half to sit outside and video in the cold.”
Vass would also like to make area businesses and alumni aware that the school is still seeking donations for renovations. For more information, contact Independence High School at 304-683-3228.
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Fans of Independence hoping to get a word with new Patriots head coach Chris Vicars will get their chance this Tuesday at 6 p.m. as the school will be hosting a meet-and-greet with all of its fall sports teams and coaches.
The event will be held at the football stadium, and the cost of admission will be a nonperishable canned food item, which will be used by the school to provide help to those in need during the Thanksgiving season.