PERRY — The Houston County Board of Education is putting its faith in sod, at least with regard to McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
After Northside’s football team had to play two home playoff games elsewhere — one at Peach County and the other at Mercer — board member Jim Maddox requested information about possible resolutions.
“Obviously, I think none of us likes the fact that we have to go outside our county to play football games,” he said.
Northside, Houston County and Warner Robins all play their home games at McConnell-Talbert, which added up to more than 20 games on the surface this year, including preseason contests. That also included four playoff games, two for Northside and two for Houston County, which were played on back-to-back nights.
Cecil Parker, director of maintenance, said at Monday’s board work session he believes re-sodding will be the answer.
“I think if we re-sod, we’re going to be good,” he said.
The county traditionally has replaced the surface every four or five years, with some patch work in between, according to Parker and superintendent Mark Scott. Parker said that some factors have changed and added he likely should have made the call to re-sod before this season.
“The players are bigger, faster, stronger, and those cleats they’re using are different than they used to be,” he said, adding that a three-year cycle probably would be better now.
Parker also said that the county brought in an outside company the last time the field was re-sodded, and part of that process might also be to blame. That company used an organic top dressing, which was intended to hold moisture and help eliminate weeds without the use of chemicals.
It also was supposed to decrease the need for watering, but Parker said it had an unintended effect on the playing surface. The top dressing keeps water near the surface, so the grass has a water source more readily available.
That isn’t good for a football field, Parker said.
“When it stresses, the roots will go deeper,” he said of the grass.
As a result, the grass tore away from the ground more easily, and that has left the field in need of a complete re-sod effort.
“I feel like that field would need to be covered completely at this point,” Scott said, estimating the cost for such a project to be $60,000.
The county has plans to open another stadium in 2016 for Houston County and Veterans to use as a home facility. Scott said some people had suggested that if artificial turf were placed at McConnell-Talbert, that another stadium might not be needed.
For other reasons, the superintendent said that wasn’t the case. With three teams using the same field, Thursday night games become a necessity at times.
“Thursday night games are not good for Friday attendance in school,” Scott said.
In addition, the cost of artificial turf up front would be a concern, according to Scott. Estimates on the FieldTurf brand website place the cost for preparation and materials at $700,000.
“I would think that artificial turf would really be a last resort,” Maddox said.
During the meeting at Tucker Elementary School in Perry, the board expressed support for the plan to re-sod at McConnell-Talbert. In addition, Parker said he would remove the top dressing and rely on the field’s sand base and drainage system, which was just renovated in 2013.
“I think we’ve got a remedy that we can move forward with, and we can resolve this,” board chairwoman Marianne Melnick said.