River to install turf at Flannery Field

15 June 2017

Over the course of the last several years, River has made a commitment — from its own athletic budget — to upgrade its facilities as much as possible. The school isn’t done yet and it’s receiving help from the Switzerland of Ohio Board of Education for its latest project.

By virtue of Tuesday’s 4-1 vote of approval from the board, River is receiving $800,000 to install artificial turf and a construct a new pressbox at Martin Flannery Field in time for the upcoming season. “We’re certainly excited and grateful of the board’s decision,” River Athletics Director Mark Romick said.

The River administration began the process of seeking information, designs and costs several months ago. Because they worked ahead, the project will begin basically immediately.

“We did a lot of research on this from talking to St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry about their turf to researching different companies ahead of time, thinking that if it was approved, we could be ahead of the game and get it done for this season,” Romick said.

Ultimately, River settled on Maumee Bay Turf, which is based near Toledo. It has installed the playing fields at Paul Brown and Nippert Stadiums in Cincinnati as well as the surface at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The biggest feather in its cap, however, is that it was chosen — by the NFL — to install the playing surface at NRG Stadium in Houston for Super Bowl XLI.

“If the NFL uses them, they can’t be bad,” Romick laughed. “They have seven crews out right now and they only install one kind of turf, so our kids will playing on the same kind of turf that was used in the Super Bowl. It’s one of the best kinds of turf you can get. It’s conceivable that we could get maybe 15 years out of it (before it would need replaced).”

Equipment is expected to start arriving on Friday with a crew of between eight and 10 set to begin the actual work on Monday. The completion date is set for Aug. 10, which is some two weeks prior to the Pilots’ season opener against Bellaire.

“I have no reservations about the completion,” Romick said. “I have full faith in people and this company. Unless a hurricane hits us and sits on us, we should be practicing on the field in August.”

The cost of the turf is between $700,000 and $750,000. The field will be alternating colors of green with the exception of the end zones and team areas, which will be red. The 50-yard line will feature a ‘Pilot Wheel.’

Initially, when the idea of capital improvements was first pitched, Romick and the River administration thought about the need and desire for a track. However, the area along the river, where the Pilots practice and would have enough space to install such a facility, is leased by the school from the government, meaning the project wasn’t feasible.

“The football field is our facility on our land, so we decided to go that route,” Romick said. Romick stressed that the installation of turf will benefit all River sports.

“When we realized we couldn’t do a track, we thought, ‘how can we still help that program?'” Romick said. “All of our kids will be able to use this. Our baseball and softball teams can get outside earlier because they can go onto the turf and do things.”

The pressbox work will also begin almost immediately. The current building will be torn down and a box, measuring 10 feet by 60 feet, will be erected. The work will be done by Rick Isaly, who is the head girls basketball coach at River.

Though the new press box will be the same height, it will include separate rooms for coaches, film crews and a center section for game personnel and media.

“It’s going to be a lot nicer,” Romick said. “It will be done by opening night, too. We didn’t have to bid that project out since it’s less than $50,000.”    

These latest upgrades add to a growing list of major changes that have been made to Flannery Field. Recently, a new scoreboard, fencing and sidewalks were installed at the field. Those projects were funded by donations or coming right out of the athletic fund.

Along with those projects, new flooring and scoreboards were installed inside the R.L. Potts Gymnasium and major improvements were made to reshape Rick Bonar Field, which is the home of the Pilots’ baseball team.

“We spent more than $170,000 of our own money in upgrading facilities,” Romick said. “Basically, we took our athletic fund back to zero because we spent money on things you can see, so people know where the money is going.” Of that money spent, the improvements at the football stadium have reached nearly $70,000.