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Group raising funds to replace sloppy turf at Northwest football stadium
Dec 02, 2013 11:13 PM

 

By DAVID HARPSTER
Independent sports writer

CANAL FULTON  The Northwest football fans who have walked on the playing surface at Dr. Martin Smilek Stadium in recent years, either congratulating coach Vic Whiting after a win or commiserating following a loss, have seen it first-hand.

The ruddy, pock-marked grass field. The large sections that are permanently brown from the lack of grass. The sections where so much drying agent has been used that the field comes to resemble a bunker at your favorite municipal golf course.

If Mother Nature has been particularly unkind and dumped some water on it, the field quickly becomes the consistency of molasses. In that condition, it’s arguably unfit for man or beast ... and certainly for high school athletes.

After years of dealing with field-related issues, a group of Canal Fulton-area individuals have come together to try to help Northwest join the growing list of local schools that have installed artificial turf playing surfaces. Calling itself “Together United: Rebuild our Field,” the group held a public meeting last month to help spread its message that the time has come to replace a field that has gained a reputation as one of Stark County’s worst.

“We wanted to have a meeting like that because there are always a lot of questions with a project this size,” said John Barabasch, chairman of the TURF committee. “This is definitely going to require community support, and if there’s no support then there’s obviously no project.

“Even though the project was in its infancy at that time, only a month old, we felt it was important to explain to the community what was going on so far.”

Barabasch, Northwest Local Schools Superintendent Mike Shreffler and everyone else associated with the project want to make one point above all others: The project will be privately funded and use no taxpayer dollars.

COMMUNITY PROJECT

Considering the fiscal difficulties the district has gone through in recent years, it’s easy to understand why those associated with it are stressing that point repeatedly.

“It’s a privately run endeavor, but obviously we have to partner with those folks because it belongs to the taxpayers in the long run,” Shreffler said at the Nov. 20 public meeting. “The Board (of Education) and I represent the taxpayers, so we have to make sure it’s done right. The turf part is a community endeavor; there may be some small things that we have to do that we were going to have to do anyway. But the drainage, the turf, all those things, is a community endeavor.

“The field is in a state of ill repair. It never did have proper drainage and there are other significant issues with that field. It needs significant amounts of repair. While it needs repair, and while the community wants to lead this charge, I think it’s a good time to look at artificial turf.”

Barabasch said estimates put the total cost of a new turf field around $600,000. While the committee is getting the word out about the project, it’s also soliciting donations from corporations, companies and private individuals to cover the expenses.

One individual, Don Schalmo, has already stepped forward with a notable donation of both money and his construction company’s manpower to make the project happen. A Canal Fulton resident, Schalmo founded Schalmo Builders Inc., which is now a third-generation full-service contractor. Schalmo currently operates Schalmo Properties.

Schalmo helped build the athletic annex that sits in front of the stadium. He said he was entertaining the thought of doing something with the field prior to being approached by the committee.

“About a month before I was approached about a meeting with some other people interested in making this happen, I was kicking the idea around myself,” Schalmo told The Independent before the public meeting.

“It was very hard to manage during wet falls because the drainage system is so bad,” said Schalmo. “We were the last school to get a track in the area. I didn’t want to be the last one to get a turf field.”

MAY GROUNDBREAKING?

Shreffler said the district spends about $25,000 a year to keep the field playable for the varsity football and boys and girls soccer teams, as well as some lower-level teams. There are still instances where the field is unplayable, such as the girls soccer team’s tournament game against Marlington this season that was moved to Jackson.

The immediate future involves looking at various turf companies before deciding on which one to contract with. Once that’s done, Barabasch said the committee will have a better handle on the exact cost. If fundraising goes as expected, the hope is to break ground by late May, with an estimated completion date of mid-August.

“I really think this is happening,” Barabasch said. “It takes a little bit of time to raise that kind of money, but we have over $200,000 in funds already committed from various individuals and we’ve had very little interaction with most of the local businesses so far. We’re really hoping some nice things happen for us that way.”

For more information on the project, visit www.nwturfproject.org.

Reach David at 330-775-1129
or david.harpster@indeonline.com.
On Twitter: @dharpsterINDE

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Edited: Dec 02, 2013 11:13 PM by Greg Kohntopp
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INDEPENDENT GLENN B  DETTMAN n Jackson s Ricky Spradling digs into the drying agent saturated turf of the Northwest football field with Northwest s Chad Hill coming in at him from behind  No Published Captionε$

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Group raising funds to replace sloppy turf at Northwest football stadium