Lexington Senior High School is literally tearing up the field.
The school system is replacing the football field at Philpott Memorial Stadium with synthetic turf, otherwise known as Astroturf, and resurfacing the surrounding track after repairs were made to aging water pipes under the field.
The approximately $1.5 million project is scheduled to begin March 1 and is expected to be completed by August 1, in time for preseason football training.
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“As a school district, we’ve invested heavily in our academics…so we thought it was time to start looking at investing in our facilities, and that includes the football field and the track,” said the Dr. Anitra Wells, Superintendent of Lexington City Schools
According to Wells, the school system has been planning to replace the football field for several years, but circumstances have aligned to make the project possible this year.
In 2019, several large sinkholes appeared on the Lexington Middle School football field across from the high school stadium. Davidson County surveyors found that the water system pipes were leaking and eroding the ground above.
After making the repairs at the college, the county determined that these same pipes were also running under the high school football field and needed to be replaced.
This would include digging pipes next to the football pitch and part of the surrounding track. The school board determined that it would be beneficial to coordinate the County Water Line Replacement Project and the School Systems Field Replacement Project.
Davidson County Manager Casey Smith said a camera survey of the pipes showed the pipes running under West Hemstead Street and into the football stadium needed replacing.
“We knew the pipes (in middle school) probably extended all the way to high school,” Smith said. “So we took a look, and they were in pretty bad shape; they were the same age and the same condition as the others. … We thought there was no point in coming back later and doing it as long as they were going to replace the pitch anyway.
The Davidson County Board of Commissioners has agreed to provide $437,640 in excess sales tax funds to schools in the city of Lexington to cover storm drain renovations near the football field and part of the track resurfacing. There will be a separate county project to replace the college pipes across the street in the stadium.
The remaining funding for the field replacement will come from the school system, with $500,000 from the general fund balance; $80,000 from paving funds and the remaining amount from state-issued lottery funds.
“I’m so excited,” said Ronnie Beverly, Lexington City Schools Athletic Director. “These improvements are part of the vision I had when I came on board 10 years ago. … It is more than a field and a track; it’s about the feeling you get and the pride you feel when you walk into the stadium.
Beverly said one of the biggest changes at Philpott Stadium will be the replacement of natural grass with Astroturf, which costs more upfront but should be more cost effective when it comes to upkeep and maintenance.
“It not only helps reduce the cost of fuel and maintenance, but it will also help with the time I have to spend on mowing, fertilizing and painting. It’s a lot of labor- work all summer until the end of the football season,” Beverly said.
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Beverly said he has made contingency plans for any sports teams that may be affected by not having access to the field and track for the remainder of the school year. He said they would use other properties within the school system and “borrow” other surrounding facilities for games and practice.
The field and track replacement is one of the first projects in the school system’s recent initiative to improve its facilities. The school board recently considered the possibility of building a brand new secondary school or making major renovations to its existing buildings. Funding for these proposed improvements would require county funding.
In the meantime, school officials are excited to see improvements to the stadium beginning.
“Currently we have a state championship track relay team that cannot run on its own track. We want to provide a safe playground and a safe track to help increase our school pride, increase positive community design and to show our commitment to our students,” said Wells.
General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.