George Guido: Leechburg considering artificial turf for football field

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 | 5:27 PM

Leechburg might be the next local school to get artificial turf for its football stadium.

The school board recently approved a line item of $560,000 to consider widening the current football field and installing artificial turf at Veterans Memorial Stadium, where the Blue Devils have played since 1947.

The expenditure is part of a $7.5 million bond issue taken out in late 2017. There was $1.6 million set aside for athletic facility upgrades, but not all of that allotment would be used, according to recent line items approved.

With Leechburg entering into a co-op with Apollo-Ridge for soccer, the field needs widened. Soccer fields generally are 70 yards wide, and football fields are 5313 yards wide.

Also, $280,000 was approved for a walking track and practice running track at the stadium.

Another $140,000 was earmarked for improvements at the school district baseball field in West Leechburg.

That’s close to $1 million of the $1.6 million set aside for athletic upgrades.

The school district had hoped to create a spring sports athletic complex in West Leechburg where baseball, softball and track events would be held. But West Leechburg Borough had zoning concerns, and plans are to keep the softball games at Gilpin-Leechburg Park.

Freeport and Kiski Area were the latest area schools to get artificial turf in the past several years when new stadiums were built.

Leechburg is one of five Alle-Kiski Valley schools still playing on natural grass. Knoch and Burrell are in the process of looking at artificial turf.

Both schools’ fields take a beating by the time the first frost comes along. In Burrell’s case, at least three times in the past when the Bucs earned home-field advantage in football and soccer, games were moved because of poor field conditions.

Knoch athletic director Kurt Reiser did extensive research of artificial turf installation.

“We’re limited right now with the number of our games we can play in our stadium because we have natural grass,” Reiser told the Tribune-Review in May. “We have to try to maintain the natural grass so that it’s a good playing surface, a safe playing surface for the kids in those sports. If we put turf down, the options become unlimited.”

Knoch is the only Class 4A football school with a grass field.

Apollo-Ridge and Springdale have expressed pride in their abilities to grow grass at their renovated facilities.

Riverview rents Riverside Park from Oakmont Borough, and it wouldn’t be practical for the school district to spend hundreds of thousands dollars on a facility it doesn’t own.

Plum, Valley, Fox Chapel, Deer Lakes and Highlands have had artificial turf for a number of years.

Springdale, DL to open season

Springdale will play its 900th football game against a local rival.

The Dynamos will host neighboring Deer Lakes in a Week Zero game Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Field.

It will be the first time the two schools have met in football since 1993, when Deer Lakes posted a 20-6 victory.

The Lancers hold a 17-3-2 lead in the all-time series. The last Springdale victory was an 18-13 decision in 1980.

Springdale athletic director Ray Davis said the Dynamos had hoped to open the season against Vincentian. But that school notified Springdale it would not be fielding a team this year.

Judging from the early reaction on Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk’s Facebook page, the matchup is generating plenty of interest.

Deer Lakes is a Class 3A school, and Springdale is A. But with a dearth of local football rivalries these days, who cares who’s in which classification?

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