The board is expected to vote tonight on installing artificial turf or maintaining a field of natural grass at the city’s almost 74-year-old stadium.
The two options
Renovations on the stadium are expected to begin in the fall or winter of 2014, after the last home game of the football season. The team is expected to kick off in a new-look stadium during the 2015 season.
Discussion over what to lay down on the field has pulled board members into two camps: one for synthetic turf, and one for natural grass.
Most members are expected to vote to maintain natural grass, said Board Chairman Randy Weiner, but a few plan to vote for synthetic turf.
Weiner, who graduated from Marietta High School in 1985, said he is a fan of tradition and wants to keep the field with natural grass.
Weighing the costs
Besides mere tradition, members said they have weighed the costs of installing and sustaining both options.
To maintain a field of natural grass costs about $50,000 each year, Weiner said.
The initial installation of a synthetic turf on the field would cost about $700,000, he said.
Roughly every eight to 10 years, the synthetic turf would need to be replaced, which Weiner said would cost an additional $235,000.
While he considered the costs of both options, Weiner said he wanted to maintain the history of the stadium.
One way to ruin the integrity of Northcutt would be to have synthetic turf, he said.
He has discussed both options with current football players and not one of them expressed their interest in synthetic turf, Weiner said.
Board members have individually done extensive research on this decision, said board member Tony Fasola.
He believes maintaining safety and tradition is important, as is keeping costs down.
As the long-term costs of both options are comparable, Fasola said, he wants to see the Blue Devils play on natural grass.
In talks with coaches, Fasola has been told that they prefer natural grass as well.
“We’d be better served keeping natural grass,” Fasola said.
The other side
In a letter to the editor published in today’s MDJ, Marietta School Board Vice Chairman Thomas Cheater says the Marietta football coaches favor artificial turf. Cheater also says artificial turf is cheaper than going natural.
Cheater said he would be voting for installing synthetic turf.
Financially, he said, the choice was clear.
The durable surface could be used for multiple purposes, not just football, and would hold up without any extra maintenance for a number of different events.
After talks with athletic directors at various nearby schools, Cheater says he believes the future of school fields lies in turf.
The fields are safe, durable and require little maintenance. Cheater’s mind was set Monday night.
What coaches say
Scott Burton, the head football coach, said that his team would be fine on either field. He believed there were more important decisions the board needed to make, including designing new restrooms and the lighting of the stadium.
“That’s just one small piece of the puzzle,” he said.
In his four years coaching the Blue Devils, Burton said his players have gotten plenty of play time on synthetic turf, as many of the opposing schools’ fields have synthetic turf.
The 16 high schools in the Cobb School District have artificial turf.
When Burton was a coach at the University of Richmond, he said his team played on a turf field, and the differences felt by players are negligible to playing on grass.
“Football is typically thought of to be played on grass. There’s maintenance and upkeep and prep that makes synthetic turf” a good option too, he said.
Burton wouldn’t make a call as to what surface the board should pick.
The Blue Devils’ 10-person coaching staff trains between 80 and 85 players for each season’s games, which includes roughly five home games and five away games.
Background on project
At a Nov. 19 meeting, the school board approved a $30,000 contract with the Atlanta-based architectural firm Gardner, Spencer, Smith, Tench and Jarbeau to design renovations to Northcutt Stadium.
The stadium has sat at the corner or Winn and Polk streets, directly west of Marietta Middle School, since it was built in 1940 at a cost of $25,000.
With close to $6.5 million, the historic stadium will be renovated with funds from SPLOST IV, approved in March by Marietta residents.
The district expects to collect nearly $55 million from the 1-cent sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018.
The list of Northcutt renovations includes replacing the electrical system, plumbing, adding about 60 new parking spaces, a new plaza or mezzanine for concessions and extending the sidelines on the field.
Vote expected Tuesday
The board is expected to vote Tuesday at its regular monthly meeting, which will be held at the district’s central office at 250 Howard St., Marietta.
The board will convene at 5:30 p.m. for a reception for departing members Tony Fasola and Stuart Fleming, who are stepping off of the board at the end of the year.