JIM PETERS: LaPorte to install artificial turf, build new track

2013-05-09T17:00:00Z 2013-05-09T22:50:06Z JIM PETERS: LaPorte to install artificial turf, build new trackJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
May 09, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

As football coaches go, LaPorte's Bob Schellinger is a natural grass kind of guy.

But even admitted old schoolers like himself ultimately have to concede to the changing times.

"Obviously, it's the trend," Schellinger said of artificial turf. "It's kind of the way to go. If we could have grass that was really nice and manicured, I'd still like to stay with grass, but this isn't going to be for me for a lot of years. It probably makes sense for this time."

Kiwanis Field, one of two remaining Duneland Athletic Conference football sites with real grass, will be going to the fake stuff after next season. The change will be part of a major renovation project at the facility, with a track complex being built at Kesling Middle School.

"I told Bob we'd look to see if we could get turf that's three inches long instead of an inch-and-a-half," LaPorte Athletic Director Ed Gilliland joked. "I give Bob a lot of credit. If he had a preference, I know he'd take grass, and we'd never have (turf), but he recognizes that it's going to be good for the football program in the future."

LaPorte ended its 2013 season in a deluge against Carroll that turned the field into a quagmire.

"It was just terrible," Schellinger said.

In 2006, the Slicers outlasted Crown Point in a regional overtime epic that was also contested in heavy rain. Had LaPorte been scheduled to host Carmel in the semistate the following week, field conditions would have been questionable. As it was, the Slicers prepared in advance of the game on the turf at Portage.

"It was pouring, and we were able to get a two-hour practice in without skipping a beat," Schellnger said. "That's what I'm more excited about. You can have two, three days of rain, and not lose any practice time. Our grass used to be the best around, but it got a disease in it that they couldn't get rid of. It just wasn't bouncing back because of use of the field. That's the prime concern. It was a problem that needed to be addressed."

LaPorte is still in the process of compiling information and soliciting bids for the turf portion of the project, which will run in the $600,000 to $800,000 range. Gilliland said the upgrades come at a time when the school corporation can do them without raising taxes. The nine-lane track will be done in the fall, with Kiwanis ready in another year.

"For us, it's a community decision," Gilliland said. "(Usage) was always something we had to be cautious with. There's just a lot of upside."

As of the 2014 season, there won't be a blade of grass left in the DAC. Lake Central is also having artificial turf installed at The Burial Grounds. Schellinger laughs at the notion that the thick grass was advantageous to his traditional ground-and-pound style of offense.

"Putting in turf isn't going to change your personnel," he said. "People say your team's going to be faster on turf. Well, the other team's going to be faster, too. If you're the slower team on grass, you're going to be the slower team on turf."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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