BLITZ: Turf and other upgrades are pricey, but the morale boost is worth it

Blitz_Inset 2There will not be many area games with the excitement that there will be in Ossian on Friday night when Norwell takes to the field against Leo.

The first home game of the season always gets people exuberant.

A battle of 2-0 teams doesn’t hurt either.

But the true electrifying factor heading into this Friday? Field turf.

Norwell will officially unveil its new turf, one of a series of upgrades to athletics facilities at the high school.

None are more high profile than the turf, which comes as Coach Josh Gerber tries to breathe new life into a football program that hasn’t finished above .500 since 2009.

“I don’t know if there is an advantage to playing on turf, but our kids are really excited and the community as well,” Gerber said.

Blitz will leave the debate over whether turf is advantageous for some teams to play on and disadvantageous to others to be tackled elsewhere. This column is about the advantages of turf installation and the excitement it can inject into programs that desperately need some positivity.

A lot of folks (OK, maybe just Blitz) gave Northrop a chance in Week 1 to knock off Homestead. After all, the first game on the new turf at Spuller Stadium (above) had to bring some good mojo, right?

While the Bruins started off with some intensity and the crowd was into it, Homestead eventually ran away with a 43-6 victory.

Saints past and present came out to Shields Field last Friday to watch Bishop Dwenger play (and win) its first varsity football game ever on campus. While new turf wasn’t laid, the updated infrastructure to Shields Field is appreciated by many, with the Saints now being “home” after decades playing at Zollner Stadium.

Bishop Dwenger opted to build a stadium around their existing on-campus turf field, bringing home games to the school instead of at Zollner Stadium.

Upgrades to athletics facilities almost never result in additional wins, but it can bring a community together, or push it apart. Last spring, DeKalb County Central United School District to pass a referendum that would see $37.6 million in facility improvements made in the district, including significant upgrades to athletics fields. This referendum was voted down by DeKalb County residents, to the disappointment of many.

Like it or not, facilities upgrades can be the difference for kids to come out to play for the team or to head home after school with nothing better to do. A brand-spanking new turf to play on? Kids gravitate towards that, just like they gravitate towards decked-out locker rooms and slick uniform designs.

Does Blitz want to see prep football become like the college game in this regard? Absolutely not. But he has witnessed newfound enthusiasm for a program purely because the field they play on in Friday nights isn’t a joke.

While education is of paramount importance to a school system, athletics cannot be ignored. Some people only make their way to their local high school when there is an athletics event.

As more and more area programs find a way to better their athletics situations, it puts the pressure on the rest to join the party. As the dominos fall elsewhere, expect holdouts to jump on board the “Turf Train” to be that next school to have a flashy home field.

It will pay for itself in more ways than one.

New turf at Northrop’s Spuller Stadium will benefit the Bruins and Snider. It is part of Fort Wayne Community Schools’ plan to add turf to all their schools, much like East Allen County Schools did in 2018.

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