WHITING | An estimated $1.5 million project to improve the track and football field at the School City of Whiting’s athletic complex is scheduled to begin this month, officials there said.
The project is slated to lay a new surface on the track and install synthetic turf on the more than 20-year-old football field, Superintendent Sandra Martinez said.
Martinez said research indicates the new surfaces are safer for student athletes and can prevent injuries.
The district hopes to complete the project by Aug. 6, in time for the fall football season. A ground-breaking ceremony took place Thursday at the stadium.
“It's at the point where we've maintained it over the years by re-crowning it as needed, and after 20 years, it's not been enough,” Martinez said. “We were at the point of replacing it with either natural turf or taking the opportunity to move to synthetic turf. We did our research and compared the costs — and our board just felt it was time to make that shift.”
The school district is contracting with a St. Louis-based construction company, Byrne & Jones, for the work. The School Board approved borrowing $2 million for the project, which the district will repay through its debt service fund, Martinez said. However, the actual cost of the project is expected to come in $500,000 less than the amount borrowed, Martinez said.
Jeff Cain, Whiting head football coach, said the new turf will allow the team to practice on the field more frequently.
"We are going to have the opportunity to practice on the field anytime we want to practice on the field now without worrying about field conditions Friday night," Cain said.
Bob Kark, the city's economic development director, said the project complements redevelopment occurring in the city, including the lakefront project and the new Oil City Stadium.
“It may be a venue for future sectionals and regionals with the latest technology,” Kark said.
Martinez said the project also will be environmentally friendly as plans call for the existing surface of the track to be pulverized and used to create the new base.