SP Field

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

With the removal of the grass, the South Panola field was bare last Friday before weekend rains made a muddy mess. The crews are grading the field in preparation for pipes to be laid and rocks to be spread under the new artificial turf. The Panolian photo by Myra Bean

Building of new SP field progressing at good rate

By Myra Bean

Members of the community who make up the South Panola Athletic Foundation (SPAF) are excited about the progress being made on the new artificial turf for the South Panola football field.

Mike Eubanks of Eagle Athletics was out looking over the field and said construction is moving along at a good rate and Tim Cowan of Athletic Surfaces Plus agreed with the assessment.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The artificial turf is being put down with private, donated funds.

One of the members, Bob Dunlap, is more excited over the formation of the foundation than he is over the field.

“This way we can help more than football,” Dunlap said. “We can help all the athletic teams.”

The project has its detractors on The Panolian website, but there appears to be plenty of support for the project. Not many who voice their opinion on the forum are willing to put their names behind the comments.

Some question the use of this much money to build the field and not for “academic” reasons.

The school district will save over $10,000 a year in maintenance fees for field upkeep and South Panola School District superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer said those funds will be used for more academic projects, salaries and materials.

SPAF held a groundbreaking recently and Shaffer said this just goes to show how much community support the school district has.

“Not just in athletics,” Shaffer said. “These generous benefactors share in the vision of goals benefitting the district across the board.”

The SPAF is a community organization in which everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, can take part. Every donation from $1 and up is accepted. Therefore, every person who donates helps the athletic programs get whatever they need.

Dunlap’s vision is for the SPAF to support all the athletics and take the burden off the school.

One of the forerunners of the project, Supreme Court Justice George Carlson, sees the turf project as a positive for the school with very low maintenance involved.

The South Panola football team will play Apopka, Fla., possibly on national television September 18 or 19. Some businessmen came together with a plan to showcase the nationally ranked Tiger team in a more positive light.

The football program has been criticized for not playing more “nationally” ranked teams to up its national standings.

Sports Illustrated ranked South Panola as high as No. 2 last season, but ended the season No. 3.

The USA Today did not include the Tigers in its preseason rankings last year. They finally entered the USA Today poll at the end of September and ended the season ranked No. 9.

Though the SPAF has major plans to aid all the athletics at South Panola, the main focus this season is on of the artificial turf football field.

In a way this is aiding other school and community organizations because it can be used for multiple purposes year-around.

Organizations who can see immediate benefits of using the field, according to Tiger head coach Lance Pogue, are the band, the youth football league and the ROTC.

South Panola principal Dr. Gearl Loden said the ROTC organization has already contacted him about holding a drill competition on the field. The old field would not support the competition with the wear and tear it was already receiving from high school and junior high football games.

Though many negatives are being thrown at the project, the project leaders believe that the field, which will hold up for at least 13 years, is a major benefit for not only the school but for the community as a whole.

The sponsors behind the project said they are proud to be a part.

Steve Wingert of MMC and the Voice of the Tiger broadcast said this is a community project.

“Anybody can be a part,” Wingert said. “We will need more community support. The SPAF was created to help the expenses for all athletics, not just football. When this takes off, funds for school will be used more for education. This is just the start of many projects.”

Richie Craven of Covenant Bank said they are proud of the accomplishment of the team and school and want to be a part of the community.

Attorney Richard “Flip” Phillips said as the attorneys who represent the school district they are proud of the hometown players.

Mayor Jerry Autrey said, “This shows what can get done with concerned people involved. This is paid for by advertising and private donations. I don’t see any problem with it. This is a good thing for Batesville and the county.”

Kenny Hopper of Graves Oil called South Panola the “cream of the crop” in football.

“We should look the part,” Hopper said. “This is a good investment. South Panola is getting recognized nationally. It will help the image of Batesville.”

Batesville alderman Stan Harrison said this is sign of things to come in Batesville.

“The town is judged basically on what we are doing,” Harrison said. “I am bound and determined for Batesville to be a first class community.”

For businesses that would like to be a part of this, contact Wingert at (662) 561-6112. To donate or pledge to the SPAF, send in care of Kenny Hopper, P.O. Box 506, Batesville, MS 38606. For more information, contact Hopper at (662) 563-4604.