The COVID-19 health crisis was in its infancy in early April when Spotsylvania County Public Schools suspended all general fund and Capital Improvement Plan non-essential spending.
That meant plans for artificial turf in the football stadiums at Chancellor and Spotsylvania high schools were put on hold.
“There was not one particular item that was isolated or targeted from moving forward,” Spotsylvania Superintendent Scott Baker said at the most recent School Board meeting. “It just so happens that it was great interest in those projects.”
School Board member Lisa Phelps of the Lee Hill District said she heard from concerned Chancellor parents regarding the project’s halting.
In the end, they had little reason to worry.
The School Board voted 5-2 to move forward with the project as the Chargers and Knights will join the county’s other three high schools in having artificial turf. Phelps and Rabih Abuismail of the Courtland District voted against the project.
Chancellor athletic director Len Carlson said the school is thrilled because parents and coaches were concerned the Chargers would be on an uneven playing field with Courtland, Massaponax and Riverbend, which all have had turf installed within the past year.
“Charger nation really felt like this was the right thing to do so they’re really appreciative,” Carlson said.
The projects will cost approximately $1.3 million each. Funds to pay for the turf come from proceeds of a bond approved by county voters in a referendum in 2014.
Abuismail, a 22-year-old Riverbend graduate, wasn’t on the board then. He questioned the cost of the project compared with the cost of maintaining grass fields. He also asked board members if they should seek new bids.
“I think for the product we’re receiving and the work being done, I don’t feel we’ll get a better price,” said Shawn Hockaday, the school system’s director of maintenance.
Abuismail also expressed concern that the turf may be coming before other Capital Improvement projects such as enhanced security at Lee Hill, Livingston and Salem elementary schools.
Phelps wanted to know if the vote failed, could the nearly $2.6 million in funds go toward Chromebook laptops for students and access to internet hot spots.
But Baker said the suspension of the project wasn’t a matter of if, but when, the turf would get installed.
“It was never a ‘This will never happen.’ It was, ‘There was a hold on spending,’ ” Baker said. “We did not put a timeline on it. That was just a reaction—I think a prudent reaction—under unprecedented conditions.”
Carlson and Spotsylvania AD Bill Swink each said he envisions construction beginning sometime in July. Carlson said the project typically takes at least eight weeks. He said there’s a chance the field won’t be ready for Chancellor’s first home football game on Aug. 28 against Massaponax.
Swink said he hopes the Knights will be set for their home opener against Monticello the same night. The field hockey teams will also use the field in the fall and their games begin in August.
Courtland is hosting the state field hockey tournaments this November along with Massaponax and Riverbend. Chancellor and Spotsylvania can now join the Cougars in hosting in the second year of the two-year cycle in 2021.
“Field hockey is going to like playing on it,” Swink said. “Field hockey is a whole different game on turf than it is on grass.”
The Chargers and Knights will meet with field designers in the near future to discuss colors and an end zone pattern.
Hockaday said the fields will be similar to the designs at Massaponax and Riverbend. While Courtland has a blue turf, the other four schools will have green playing fields. The only difference will be school the school colors in the end zone and the logos at midfield.
“We’re glad it’s going to happen this year,” Carlson said of getting turf. “It’s a relief.”