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Grass giving way to artificial surface at county stadiums
Rebel Field
Tons of plowed-up sod and dirt were pushed to the middle of Rebel Field on Thursday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — The high school stadiums in Effingham County are undergoing an expansion of sorts.

Rebel Field and The Corral aren’t being made bigger. Sports Turf is being installed in them, paving the way for much more use of the venues.

“We are extremely excited about the addition of synthetic field turf at (Effingham County and South Effingham high schools),” Effingham County School District Chief Operations Officer Ron Womack said. “The new turf will be user friendly for all of our sports at each high school, as well as allowing us the ability to expand our partnership with the recreation departments in the county, given the new turf can allow for more play and traffic.”

The total cost of the surface change is just shy of $3.5 million — $2,117,710 at Rebel Field and $1,369,329 at The Corral.

“There is a price difference between the two schools because of the site work that has to be performed at Effingham County High School,” Womack said. “There is a failing 60-inch storm pipe that is located under the playing surface at ECHS. This storm drain has to be removed and relocated to an area that is not underneath the playing surface. 

“Given the condition of the failing storm pipe, the relocation of this pipe is something that was facing removal even if we were not putting down a new synthetic turf field. SEHS does not have any storm drain pipes that have to be relocated.”

The work is already underway at Rebel Field and is set to start soon at The Corral. The change is scheduled to be completed by the first home football game at each site in August.

The primary benefit to switching from grass to artificial turf is that wear and tear will no longer be a problem on the fields.  

“As stated earlier, the new field turf will allow for more play, thus benefiting football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls lacrosse, girls flag football, ROTC, band, track and field, community events, and county recreational sports,” Womack said. “The new turf will also allow each high school the ability to use the field for a practice area, where in the past we have had to limit the use on the natural grass. Our middle school sports will also benefit, thus allowing them to host sporting events since the synthetic turf is more durable and can withstand the traffic.”

Sports Turf makes a state-of-the-art product. Its features include:

— A dense, three-fiber turf system for a firm and durable surface

— More accessible for special-needs students, allowing for wheel chairs to maneuver more freely for activities

— Organic, sustainable infills to dramatically reduce field temperatures

— Shock pad technology specifically engineered to optimize safety for athletes during impacts to the surface reducing concussions and lower extremity injuries

“It’s changed a lot,” Effingham County athletic director Matt Huntley said. “I think a big issues people had with it even five years ago was the field temperature. We played in the Erk Russell Classic (at Georgia Souther University) and that field (at Paulson Stadium) was 140, maybe 150 degrees.”

“It was blistering because of those black (rubber) pellets (used as the base). ... Now they use kiln-dried pine. It’s wood chips.

“It doesn’t absorb water so you don’t get the humidity. Water goes right through it. ... We went to Camden County and Pierce County — they both have Sports Turf — and they took a temperature gun and it showed the temperature was the same as turf.”