St. Mary's Breaks Ground on Red Turf Field
Head coach of Orchard Lake prep school expects renovations to be finished by home opening game in fall.
The home field of the Orchard Lake St. Mary's football team has seen a lot of memorable sports events, but on Tuesday it saw something different — bulldozers.
A small groundbreaking ceremony was held at Msgr. Milewski Field, where artifical, red-colored turf is being installed for the fall 2012 football season. Until now, the home of the Eaglets had been known as one of few natural grass surfaces remaining for high school football programs across the country.
The field will be colored red in between the end zones with the yard markers in traditional white with black trim, while the end zones will be painted black with "OLSM" in white type, explained athletic director and varsity football head coach George Porritt.
"Aesthetically, it'll be beautiful ... I think as turf fields have developed through the years, they’re safe and they make an enjoyable playing surface for the kids," Porritt said. "It’s always fun to play on grass, but it’s just going to be a clean surface all the time. In rain, snow, or whatever, the field will always be in great, playable shape."
It's part of a $600,000 project to renovate the entire stadium, headmaster James Glowacki said Monday, and a deposit of $100,000 was recently put down after approval at a meeting of the St. Mary's Board of Regents last week.
Porritt said that while the red turf may be finished first, a new set of bleachers to be installed is expected to push construction until around week three of the football season, scheduled against Weston St. Marcellus (Ontario) School, date to be determined.
"We were having troubles getting everybody into our bleachers before," Porritt said in reference to the student section of St. Mary's known to fans as "Red Rowdies." "We always had to rent (additional bleachers), and now we won’t have to do that," he said.
According to Glowacki, the red turf will make St. Mary's one of only three campuses nationwide with such a football-playing surface. Eastern Washington University and New Braunfels Canyon High School in Texas are the others.
The red turf had been the subject of a fundraising drive throughout the school year, after St. Mary's director of facilities Robin Goddard flew to the campus of Eastern Washington to investigate logistics.
"We take football very seriously and we’ve had incredible success in our history. As much as anything, it’s a statement of where we hope to be as long as St. Mary’s is around," Glowacki said, explaining that the red field represents the school's colors.
Last season, in a memorable rain storm Oct. 1, the Eaglets defeated Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 10-9, in overtime at home. St. Mary's eventually won its' district state championship with a win over Mt. Pleasant at Ford Field in Detroit.