The trend toward investing in long-lasting and durable athletic turf systems that are safe, cost-efficient and environmentally beneficial continues to grow among high schools around the country. Like many private schools, public school systems are discovering that high-use, multisport fields can provide long-term benefits not only to the students but also the entire community. In Detroit, funding from a municipal bond and a community grant from the National Football League helped Renaissance High School acquire a synthetic turf field just like the pros.
In January the NFL Grassroots Program, the NFL Youth Football Fund and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), together with representatives from the Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Lions, celebrated the dedication of the new, state-of-the-art football field at Renaissance High School. General Sports Turf (GST), based in nearby Rochester, Mich., provided and installed the GameDay Grass XPe6 turf field, one of 32 fields the company has designed and built at 27 schools across the state, from high schools to NCAA Division I universities.
The dedication of the new Renaissance field was held during the week of the Super Bowl in Detroit to highlight the involvement of the NFL. To complete the installation in time for the Jan. 30 ribbon cutting, planners put the project on an accelerated, fast-track schedule. Working at least 12 hours each day (and into the winter evenings under the stadium lights) with no days off, the crew finished the job in 12 days, ahead of schedule and on budget. In addition, the specific turf used for the project was upgraded at no extra cost.
"We bid on this project in 2003 and recommended the best turf product available at the time," says Charlie Cook, senior vice president of construction services for GST. "Since that time, technology had advanced, and we were able to upgrade the turf to our GameDay Grass XPe6, one of the best synthetic turf products available."
GameDay Grass is an all-rubber "infill" turf product using a specially developed fiber designed for multiple sports and year-round use. In Michigan, 84 percent of the synthetic turf fields are filled with rubber only.
High schools, colleges and municipalities are paying attention to research indicating that all-rubber infill systems are preferred over systems that mix rubber with other materials, such as sand. FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body, has awarded its highest rating to systems featuring an infill absent of a sand material.
"All-rubber infill systems are the wave of the future for synthetic turf fields," GST Vice President Rich Jordan says. "We're very excited to provide this new technology to the Detroit Public School system, as well as to all the schools across Michigan and the rest of the country that we've worked with."
The Renaissance High School field was funded in part by a $200,000 National Football League Grassroots Program grant. The grant, awarded by the Detroit Lions, NFL, NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and administered by LISC (one of the nation's leading community development support organizations), is part of $2.5 million in field refurbishment awards allocated in 2004 to community groups in 16 cities nationwide. The Renaissance project also was funded through a voter-supported municipal bond initiative in Detroit.
GST has installed two of the three new synthetic fields in the Detroit Public School system. In 2003 the company installed a new field at Martin Luther King High School. The new field at Renaissance will serve thousands of students in the community. As part of the school's new $15 million campus, the field, track and stadium will be home to the Renaissance football team and will host community football and other recreational programs organized by Think Detroit Police Athletic League, which has been involved in local youth programming since 1969.