SP artificial turf

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008

Big time: Supporters hear pitch to lay artificial surface on Tiger field

By Rupert Howell
Could South Panola’s perennial championship football team be playing home games and  practicing on an artificial surface in the near future?

It’s possible according to a group of about a dozen local  businessmen/Tiger fans who heard a sales pitch last Monday from  Tim  Cowan, a partner in a firm that makes those artificial surfaces happen.

Does it sound absurd that a Mississippi school would have an  expensive artificial surface on a football field that is used for  five or six varsity home games each year?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Well, tell it to other Mississippi schools such as Ocean Springs, Oak Grove, Hattiesburg, Clinton, and Biloxi who already have an  artificial playing surface on their fields according to Cowan.

Among those meeting in the board room of long-time South Panola  supporter Bob Dunlap was State Supreme Court Justice George C.  Carlson, South Panola Superintendent Keith Shaffer and School  principal Gearl Loden.

Tiger Head Coach Lance Pogue also attended and called the proposal  “major league positive.”

He stressed that the project would be privately funded. “We’re just  asking the school to give us what they normally give us,” and cited  savings in the area of maintenance while predicting that over time the surface may pay for itself.

Pogue also noted that statistics indicate 25 percent fewer injuries on the surface.

Justice Carlson relaxes every Friday night during football season by  doing the play-by-play for the Tigers. Carlson visited Jackson  Academy this week where he saw first hand and up close what the  proposed artificial turf looks like and said it was “beautiful.”

“It’s unbelievably soft, –cushiony…. It’s very much removed from  the old Astroturf of years ago,” he said.

“We always cooperate with community organizations and parent groups,”  Shaffer said later and added that the school district could not take  on the project but would cooperate and work with the group. He stated “We  reap positive benefits from efforts such as these.”

The proposal is advertising driven and would be funded at least  partially through sales of 6’x 9’ sections of sideline turf  emblazoned with the advertisers’ logos or messages.

Cowan also implied that artificial fields are used a lot more often,  even for events not pertaining to football, because they are designed  to drain in the most severe rain storms. He said head coaches don’t  have the worry about too many games being played and ruining the turf  and notes that marching bands, graduations, concerts and other  community events can be held on the surface.

A downside is that it’s still “green side” up.

Cowan’s figures indicated a cost of $650,000 to synthetically turf  the field and there are an estimated $150,000 worth of other  improvements that need to be made.

The group is planning another meeting next week to get the ball  rolling. Tiger supporters who are non committal on the venture need  to know Olive Branch is in the process of getting a surface and  Tupelo is not far behind, according to Pogue.

He estimates that there are about 10 already in the state.

“It’s the thing of the future,” Pogue mentioned.