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Phoenix begins quest for artificial turf at stadium

PHOENIX — In an effort to continue the “rise” going on in the Phoenix-Talent School District, Phoenix High athletic director Dave Ehrhardt announced Thursday that the school has begun a $500,000 fundraising campaign to spur installation of artificial turf on the field at Jack Woodward Stadium as soon as January.

“We’re super optimistic moving forward with this,” said Ehrhardt. “We feel in the wake of the fires here this is something that kind of helps signal the rebuilding effort in the community, providing this all-weather surface.

“And looking at the kind of weather we’re dealing with right now and the lack of opportunities we have in our stadium because we don’t have an all-weather field really has us to the point where it’s time to do this.”

Ehrhardt said the fundraising goal has been set at approximately half of the expected cost to prep and install a multipurpose artificial surface on the school grounds.

“Overall we’re seeing this as somewhere around a $900,000-$1 million project,” he said. “The school is going to play a role in it obviously to help finance a portion of it but we know we need to raise a pretty substantial amount to make this happen.”

As one of only a handful of public high schools in the Rogue Valley without a synthetic playing surface — Rogue River, North Valley, Illinois Valley, Prospect and Butte Falls are others — Phoenix High is in the latter stages of a $55 million remodel that included the building of a new school, renovation of the stadium bleachers and installation of a new track surface.

Ehrhardt said the inclusion of artificial turf on the football field was not part of the bond for the renovations and is something the school took on as a project to finish the facility.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the community that they agree that this needs to be done,” said Ehrhardt, “so we’re going to turn over every stone we possibly can to see how we can do this. The way we do things involves community efforts here in Phoenix and Talent and we want this field to reflect that as well.”

As such, Ehrhardt said the district is planning to name the site Phoenix-Talent Rising Field at Jack Woodward Stadium.

“Phoenix-Talent Rising is a slogan we’ve been using since the fires,” said the athletic director, “to signify how our school district has been, in addition to being a learning center for kids, a community resource for helping people in Phoenix and Talent weather this and figure out their course in how they’re going to rise back up. With that, we really feel that’s a good name for the field based off of where things are at and our attitude toward working together.”

The new field will be lined to accommodate football and soccer games, but Ehrhardt said it will also be vitally important in creating flexibility for the school’s physical education and marching band programs.

“The opportunities are pretty endless,” he said.

Ehrhardt also envisions widespread community use, from youth soccer and football programs to potential weekend gatherings during an open time on the campus.

The Pirates utilize Colver Field at Hagler-James Park in Talent to play their soccer matches, but that only gets them so far and definitely wears down over extended use.

“To be able to play soccer games on that (stadium) field would be great,” said Ehrhardt. “Right now when we get into the soccer playoffs, we don’t have lights at Colver Field so we have to count on the generosity of our friends at South Medford or go down to US Cellular (Community Park) and play, and we’d love to be able to play things like that at home.”

Ehrhardt said the school would like to secure funding over the next few weeks, with the hope of finalizing the project and dates for field prep and installation on Dec. 15. Plans involve excavation beginning on the 99,000-square-foot field Jan. 4, and installation of the artificial surface to begin Jan. 25 to ensure it’s ready for use when Season 3 begins Feb. 22 for football and soccer.

“That’s an aggressive timeline, people have told me that,” admitted Ehrhardt, “but I’ve seen projects like this where people start them and it becomes a five-year fundraiser and kids graduate and people lose interest. We don’t want that. We want to move forward with this now and our hope is that, if we have Season 3 sports, we have a surface in there that our football and soccer teams can play on in February, March and April.”

Ehrhardt said something needs to give in order for the field to be useful in any capacity come February. All the renovations in the past year took a toll on the stadium field.

“Right now, the shape it’s in, it needs a lot of work already,” he said. “After the track was put in they did some scraping of the field but it’s not super playable as it is right now. Let’s say we couldn’t do the turf and the grass was still there, we would potentially have to seek another option for playing home games just because of the condition that the field is in right now.”

“We’ve got a beautiful track and a beautiful stadium,” added Ehrhardt, “but the actual grass surface is in pretty questionable condition.”

Ehrhardt was set to give a presentation to the Phoenix-Talent school board Thursday night but added that the project has gone out to bid and the hope is a decision on the supplier and installer can be made in early December.

“It’s like when you buy carpet for your house,” he said. “You can buy carpet in all different price ranges and some are going to handle traffic better than others. We anticipate a lot of use on this field so durability for us is really huge. Turf has come a long, long way in terms of safety but we also just want to make sure that when our kids are out there and our community is out there it’s the safest possible surface we can offer.”

Beyond various outreach efforts by the school to friends, alumni and corporate sponsors, Ehrhardt said a Turf-A-Thon through Tablerock Sports is planned from 5-9 p.m. on Dec. 11 to help put the fundraising over the top.

The streaming effort from the school’s weightroom is expected to feature what the district has dealt with following the September fires and the move into a new school facility. It will feature administrators, coaches and students as they detail why installing an all-weather surface at the school is important.

Donations can be made online at getmeregistered.com/PTRisingField or by mailing checks payable to Phoenix-Talent Rising Field to P.O. Box 697, Phoenix, Oregon, 97535.

All donations of $1,000 or more will be recognized in permanent signage at the stadium.

For more information, contact Ehrhardt via email at dave.ehrhardt@phoenix.k12.or.us or call 541-621-6361.

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Phoenix senior football players Huntyr Crow and Eli Page on the high school football field Thursday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Dave Ehrhardt, Phoenix HS athletic director at Phoenix high stadium Thursday.