Gridiron upgrade

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This cross section is similar to what was installed at Pendleton Heights. It shows the turf on top of limestone with the drainage system below. Submitted

PENDLETON — Along with a new way of doing things, Pendleton Heights student-athletes have a new place to do it.

On Monday, Arabian student-athletes were among those across the state who began preseason workouts for the 2020-21 school year.

They wore masks.

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They socially distanced.

They also did some of their workouts on the brand-new synthetic turf of John Broughton Field.

The $798,000 project with Maumee Bay Turf Center, a company in Oregon, Ohio, near Toledo, was completed at the end of June. Initially, the goal was to have the field completed by the end of July or start of August. With the campus closed and students doing all of their school work online because of COVID-19, the company was able to get a head start on getting the field prepared.

“It’s so exciting having it, especially for my senior year,” said Caden McClain, a senior running back/linebacker for the Arabians. “It’s the best thing that could have happened, not just for me, but for all the seniors.”

Lapel High School is also adding artificial turf to its football field.

Frankton-Lapel Community Schools superintendent Bobby Fields said the Bulldogs’ new look is scheduled to be completed “the third week of July.”

Gameday Turf of Noblesville is providing the work for the $600,000 project.

“The turf was delivered (Monday), and they’re going to start putting it down this week,” Fields said.

The superintendent’s reasons for Lapel going to an artificial turf field are similar to those at Pendleton Heights.

At Lapel, the multi-purpose turf will give the football team the ability to practice on it without the fear of tearing it up before a game, which would happen on the natural grass field. The new field will also be used by physical education classes and the band.

Fields added that, if Lapel decides to add a soccer team in the future, the field will be lined to accommodate.

“I go out there a lot,” Fields said, of noting the progress of the project. “It’ll really start changing this week when they start putting the turf down.”

Pendleton Heights’ players, coaches and fans have already gone through the eagerness in anticipating the final project.

McClain said he and friends would drive by the field every night checking to see how things were coming along.

“The day it was finished, we went in the middle of the night (to see it),” McClain said. “We were so excited because we had all been playing on a grass field.”

Head coach Jed Richman said his two young sons were always curious and wanting to go by for their own inspections. He added that he’d often see people from the community at the school doing the same thing.

“A lot of people were very interested,” he said. “Every day there’d be people out taking a look.”

At Pendleton Heights, the new turf field is part of a number of recent upgrades to athletics facilities. Recently, the school opened its new activity center and weight room.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” Richman added. “The support. We dreamt a dream together.

He said former Superintendent Joe Buck, Superintendent Mark Hall, Principal Connie Rickert and athletic director Chad Smith “are all like-minded. It’s been a special four years (for me at the school), improving facilities and helping kids. We’re all in it together. We are one team.”

On Monday, Richman, who is also the school’s strength coach, said the football team and other Arabian athletic programs did some conditioning on the field. He said there were 250 students, properly socially distanced, working out in four different sessions at the school during the first day of practice for the 2020-21 year.

“I thought we were really smart how we designed and eased back in,” he said. “We can’t do much (football-wise). We did conditioning with spacing, no contact. There was not a lot of football, hopefully we will get that in Phase 2.”

With Pendleton Heights adding the new field, there are now just two schools (Shelbyville and Yorktown) in the eight-member Hoosier Heritage Conference that do not have artificial turf.

The majority of the Arabians football schedule will now take place on synthetic surfaces. They open with an Aug. 15 scrimmage, at home, against Mooresville. The first eight games of a nine-game regular season will take place on similar facilities. Only the season finale on Oct. 16, at Shelbyville, will be on a natural grass field.

The transformation to artificial turf at Pendleton Heights began with the removal of about 6,500 cubic yards of dirt from the field. It was followed by the addition of 3,500 tons of stone, added to a depth of eight inches, and the installation of a 12-inch in diameter drainage pipe around the perimeter.

The synthetic turf is two-inches thick. It includes about and inch an a half of rubber in-fill, which provides the cushioning, leaving half an inch of the turf fibers sticking out at the top.

“It’s a great time to be an Arabian, not just the facilities, but we all work well together and work hard and care about each other,” Richman said. “The upgrade in facilities are like a cherry on top.”