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BLOOMINGTON — Anyone needing to boost their level of community pride this week may want to drive past Bloomington High School's Fred Carlton Field.

There is eye candy at the corner of Colton Avenue and East Locust Street featuring a new synthetic field that will accommodate football and soccer games along with physical education classes and marching band performances. 

"The green just pops," said athletic director Tony Bauman. "I think it's just an awesome looking facility that is going to get a great amount of use."

The field has two shades of green alternating every 5 yards and each end zone is purple with gold lettering for the words Bloomington (west end zone) and Raiders (east end zone).

The concerns Bauman once had about how much wear and tear the old grass field could tolerate are a thing of the past because the artificial turf can handle continuous use for 10 to 15 years.

The project's nearly $1 million cost includes equipment to maintain the turf, which has a combination of rubber pellets and sand mixed between fibers of artificial grass.

"We didn't cut corners on the safety aspect," Bauman said. "One of the new features of these synthetic fields is what they call a shock pad. We put a shock pad underneath the turf and that has a 20-year warranty on it."

Bauman said the technology of synthetic turf fields has come a long way the past five years.

"They've got it down to where they are looking out for the best interest of the athlete," he said.

The turf was installed by Byrne & Jones Construction of St. Louis, the same company that put in Illinois State's football field. The finishing touches are expected to be done in time for the girls soccer team to practice this week. 

"It's a wonderful facility and anybody who drives by it is obviously going to take notice of what we have," said newly hired football coach Scott Godfrey.

"Hopefully, it brings some attention to not only Bloomington football, but Bloomington athletics in general. It shows the commitment the community has."  

Bauman concedes coaches will need to coordinate practice schedules, especially in the fall when boys soccer and football are in season. Fortunately, both programs will continue to have the same grass practice areas available that they've always had. 

"We'll have an agreement where it won't be football getting the same slot every day (on the artificial turf) and everybody else adapts to them," Bauman said. 

In the spring, those training on the track may need to dodge a wayward ball from girls soccer practice.

"Those are good problems to have," Bauman said. "Right now we're having the same scheduling problems trying to find gym space (for practices) with the weather in the spring. It will help us to have one more area that we can use."

Previously, home soccer games were held 5½ miles away at Community Fields. 

The soccer field at Fred Carlton Field will be about 10 yards narrower than regulation size, but it still meets requirements to host IHSA post-season events.

"Our biggest hurdles are during the beginning of the season," said Craig Lee, who coaches girls and boys soccer. "We really need to get time on a field.

"We’ll be able to do tryouts in February on it. We’ll be able to get on it right away. It is going to be enormous for us to have that and to be a place the girls can be proud of and want to play at."

Soccer balls roll faster on artificial turf, but Bauman thinks players will appreciate true bounces and consistent rolls. They're also likely to see bigger crowds.

"It will be nice to be right here on campus," he said. "We have the restroom facilities; the concession facilities; the lights. We'll be able to host a much more attractive soccer game on site."

Bauman has already fielded inquiries from non-school groups looking to rent the field. 

"It's going to be a hot commodity," he said of a landmark the community can rally around. 

Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @PG_sharer

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Reporter

Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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