Senior staff writer
Franklin Central will become the seventh high school on the Southside to have synthetic turf when the new season begins. The turf replaces the grass field at Ray Skillman Stadium, built in 2004, and gives the Flashes a new look in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference after leaving Conference Indiana. All football fields in the HCC have synthetic turf, and Jeffersonville is the lone 6A field that remains grass.
The synthetic field project is overseen by Context Design of Fortville and installed by the Motz Group of Cincinnati. The field will have multiple uses, according to Franklin Township Schools Superintendent Bruce Hibbard. The Flashes football team, marching band, soccer teams and youth football squads as well as physical education students will be able to use the field.
“The grass field could only be used about 20 times per year,” Hibbard said. “Now we can utilize the field from March through late October. It will reduce maintenance costs for mowing, lining, watering and replacing turf and free ground maintenance personnel for other duties.”
It opens the door for more practice time on the field by the marching band under director Evan Cooper and as a site for competitions.
“This benefits everybody,” athletic director Greg Orr said. “It opens up a tremendous amount of use for a variety of events.”
With the football team practicing on synthetic turf, it frees up one of the three practice fields just east of the high school building.
The marching band could only practice on grass one night a week, usually on Thursdays. Track and field events will be unique because an adjacent area with a grandstand will be used for discus, shot put and long jump.
“This catches us up with everyone else,” Orr said. “There are very few schools our size in the state that are still playing on grass. There has to be a difference in playing on turf instead of grass. Non-contact football injuries should be lessened.”
“The football players are extremely excited, and the marching band was on board with this from the very beginning,” Orr said. “Everybody is pumped.”
Orr said Franklin Central had applied and was accepted into the HHC before plans were underway for a synthetic turf field. “With the synthetic field we will have the best stadium in the state, in my opinion,” football coach Grant Lewis said.
Only Beech Grove and Manual high schools have grass fields on the Southside. Franklin Central’s field will have a shock pad underneath the surface and a sub-layer that consists of 60 percent sand and 40 percent rubber.
Hibbard explained that most of the funding came from the district’s rainy day fund, as approved the school board. He added that negotiations are underway for naming rights. The home opener is Aug. 24 against Roncalli, and the Flashes open their season Aug. 17 at Decatur Central.
Hundreds of school-age football players attended Football University at Franklin Central, one of 19 national sites and the only one in Indiana, Saturday and Sunday.
The players received training from NFL-experienced coaches, recruiting advice and skill evaluations. FBU is part of All-American Football, which sanctions bowl games showcasing the top freshmen high school players and the nation’s top 100 seniors.