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Oxford begins rolling out the blue turf



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Enthusiastic supporters of Oxford’s blue turf gathered at the high school Monday to welcome the arrival of the artificial playing surface. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
July 20, 2011 - Monday, July 18 was a blue-banner day in the history of the Oxford Athletic Department.

The much anticipated blue and gold synthetic turf, given to the district as a gift from the Oxford Turf Committee, began installation at Oxford High Schools' Wildcat Stadium.

According to Rich Jordan, vice president of sales and marketing for AstroTurf, located in Dalton, Georgia, installation should take about three weeks and be completed by the beginning of August, weather permitting.

"It will be quite a scene when you start to see a blue football field go down," he said.

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Jim Reis, chairman of the Oxford Turf Committee, said the group switched from Pro Grass Synthetic Turf Systems to AstroTurf because the partnership with AstroTurf was a better fit for the Turf Committee.

"AstroTurf is going to partner with us and help us do fund-raising and all that kind of stuff," Reis said.

Reis indicated AstroTurf was going to help the committee find corporate sponsors to partner with by giving them the tools needed to get donations.

He added "it was going to take some time," but the group "had some good leads."

AstroTurf has been installing synthetic turf for the past 43 years since opening their manufacturing facility in 1968.

Their products have been installed in numerous high schools, colleges and professional organizations throughout the country.

Some notable installations include the Edward Jones Dome, home of the National Football League's St. Louis Rams, Tropicana Field, home of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas State University's football stadium and Lake Orion High Schools football and soccer fields.

Blue turf is also nothing new for AstroTurf, as they installed Boise State University's original blue turf, Jordan said.

"It's a great opportunity for AstroTurf to showcase our premium synthetic athletic surfaces, mainly the AstroTurf GameDay Grass 3D Extreme," Jordan said. "It's a phenomenal surface and Oxford is a phenomenal community to put it in."

GameDay Grass 3D synthetic turf, according to the company's website www.astroturf.com, "produces a natural looking synthetic surface that is more durable than the 100 percent polyethylene systems."

"State-of-the-art tufting of AstroTurf GameDay Grass 3D more accurately mimics the look and feel of natural grass. A double nylon root zone acts a traction layer, providing fiber support and reducing the compaction associated with other infill products," the website added.

Jordan said the turf comes with an eight year-warranty, but "expects it will last a lot longer than that."

He added the cost of the replacement turf would vary depending on what type of turf the committee wanted to reinstall.

Jordan noted the Michigan winters would not impact the turf surface.

"If anything, it's intense sunlight and UV degradation that plays a much larger role in places like Florida, Nevada and Arizona," he said.

According to Reis, AstroTurf was looking to set up a live web stream for people to watch the installation.

"That is something they talked about...they have done it with other fields, but this one is really unique because of it being colored, and it might gain more attention," he said.

However, Jordan did not know if they were able to get a camera ready in time.

"I don't have a camera I could pull at this point, but that could change...unless the district has a camera they would like to commit to the project and provide the access to that stream, at this point I am not optimistic that would happen."

So far, the Turf Committee has raised $58,000 of the $300,000 goal needed for the turf, according to www.oxfordboosters.com.

The saga of the blue turf began in December 2009 when a group of community members came together to form the Oxford Turf Committee, with the goal of raising the necessary funds for synthetic turf.

Over the course of the next year, the group fundraised by collecting gold and holding "Turf Day," among other forms of fundraising.

Their efforts finally paid off earlier this year on Monday, Jan. 24 when they announced to Oxford Community Schools Board of Education an anonymous private investor was going to loan the Turf Committee the difference between the funds they raised privately and the cost of the turf installation.

The Board of Education approved the gift of blue turf from the committee by a 6-0 vote.

"It has always been the students for me and more opportunities for everyone in the community," Reis said. "Along with that comes more revenue for the schools. The way things are now, being so tight, that is an added bonus...Being able to have more events, more ticket sales and more concession sales, it makes more sense when you are scrambling to find money for the district."

"To me, it's a win-win thing, having more opportunities and having more funds coming to the school," Reis added.

The blue turf will take center stage during Oxford's home opener against Lake Orion on Friday, August 26.

Reis is expecting a crowd upwards of 12,000 people for the game. He noted extra seating could be added on the hill near Wildcat wall.

"Since it's the state champs in Lake Orion for one thing and blue turf...I think it is going to be huge," Reis said. "It has already gained national attention, but once that (blue turf) shows up...it is going to start to create that buzz."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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