Progress made on Shady, Liberty football fields

Rick Barbero/The Register-HeraldThe football fields at Shady Spring (above) and Liberty are getting artificial turf surfaces in time for the 2021 season. Both schools hope to have installation complete in time for the three-week period that starts July 5 .

When work began on resurfacing the football field at Woodrow Wilson last summer, Vince Culicerto monitored the progress.

"I live out by Woodrow, so I kept driving by, like, how long is this going to take? How long is it going to be?" Culicerto said. "It kept getting later in the summer and I was like, 'Oh, man. They need to get started.' Boy, once they started, that sucker was done."

Culicerto, of course, had a reason for his curiosity. The head coach at Shady Spring knew his team's field was due for the same synthetic turf installation the following year. That time is now, and he's happy with how things are coming along.

Same thing for head coach Mark Workman at Liberty, a team coming off its first playoff trip in in five seasons.

"They're moving right along," Workman said. "I went up there Tuesday or Wednesday and they were getting ready to lay down the drain pipe and had all the rest of the stuff done. I'd say here in the next few days they're liable to start laying the turf down."

Raleigh County Schools announced in March 2020 that the football fields at all four public high schools would be resurfaced through money available in its Capital Improvements Projects Fund. Woodrow Wilson and Independence were completed last August, with installation at Shady Spring and Liberty set to begin the following spring.

The work is being done by The Motz Group, a Cincinnati-based firm that laid the turf at the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium, among many others. The total cost for all four fields will be $3.6 million, which comes in at about $100,000 less per field than RCS Superintendent David Price was expecting.

Price said last year that the contract with The Motz Group comes with an eight-year warranty and the turf is expected to have a lifespan of 15 years.

"The maintenance is minimal," Price said. "Our contract includes all grooming equipment and everything that we need to maintain it. It has a guarantee where if there's any tears, problems, rips, anything that happens with it (included) in the contract, they will be there within 24 hours to fix it. We're excited about that. If paint peels up, whatever it may be, they are there within 24 hours to provide maintenance."

The benefits of a field with synthetic turf are far reaching. Primarily, weather will no longer be a factor.

"You got rainy weather during practice? Hey, it doesn't really make a difference," Culicerto said. "You can carry on and have a practice pretty normal. Not be all muddy and muddy up your dressing room. Then it takes out a lot of prep work for the coaches. We're the ones that line those fields. We're the ones that get all that ready. That stuff's going to be ready."

The field can be used and enjoyed by more than just the football team.

"It's a game changer," Workman said. "There's no more watching the weather and having to plan around rain. We have a good surface to practice on now. And it also helps with the middle school teams. They can get over there and practice now. The middle schools use the field and the youth leagues use the field and none of them could really get up there to practice because there's so much wear and tear on it anyway. Now we can get these young kids on it at a young age. This is huge for our area."

The baseball and softball teams can practice on the field when their fields are too wet, and the marching bands can use the field to practice their routines. Shady's soccer teams still plan to play their home games at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex, but the on-campus turf field will obviously be an attractive option.

Liberty does not have a soccer program.

The reason for delay in Shady Spring and Liberty getting their turf is because both stadiums needed bleacher work. However, progress in that area has been slow or, in Liberty's case, nonexistent, which disappoints Workman. The Raiders were the host team for their first round playoff game against Herbert Hoover in November, but it had to be played at Woodrow since Liberty's field is not approved to host playoff games because it doesn't meet the required seating capacity.

The bleachers on the visitors side were supposed to be replaced but have not, Workman said. 

"We're going to have a million dollar facility up there on our football field and we still can't host a playoff game, and the bleachers is going to be one of the reasons. Not enough seating capacity," Workman said. "It's not right. We're in the year 2021. Let's update this stuff.

"We're getting a new field and I am really thankful for that. But let's get it up to par. There is no reason why we're a double-A school and can't host a playoff game."

Workman said he has heard alternative options are adding bleachers to the home side or placing bleachers behind the end zone, an idea he does not support.

"You're going to take a million dollar facility and make it look like junk," he said.

As for Shady, the bleachers and press box on the visitors side have been removed, but that's it.

"They are working on the home side," Culicerto said. "Replacement for the visitor side has not arrived. They have been removed but no replacement yet."

Both teams open the season at home on Aug. 27, Shady against Tug Valley and Liberty against Independence in the annual Battle of '76.

Before that, both are hoping the turf will be completely installed in time for the three-week period that starts July 5.

Email: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber

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