Kori Austera

A digital rendering of Talawanda High School’s future turf field shows the Field of Dreams committee’s plan to build with donations from the community, such as McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital.

Because of a $100,000 pledge from McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital (MHMH), Talawanda High School (THS) is well on its way to raising enough money to install an artificial turf field -colloquially called the Field of Dreams – at its new site by fall 2011.

Bryan Hehemann, president and CEO of MHMH, said this donation is an outgrowth of the school district and hospital’s 16-year athletic trainer agreement. However, Hehemann said this $100,000 pledge is contingent on the Field of Dreams committee raising the remaining amount of money for the field. If the committee receives enough pledges, MHMH will donate $10,000 a year for 10 years.

“Our first pledge would be sometime this summer after they’ve had success in raising the total amount of funds that they need,” Hehemann said.

A turf field will decrease the risk of injuries caused by playing on an uneven or poorly maintained field, THS Director of Athletics Chris Weaver said.

Don Meiner, president of THS Athletic Boosters, said the natural grass field at the soon-to-be old location is used more than the recommended times per year.

“Experts suggest that you should play no more than 15 to 16 events on (natural grass fields) per year,” Weaver said. “The year previous to this year, we played 53 events on this field.”

An artificial turf field will also improve community options by increasing the number of teams and organizations that could use the field each year, Weaver added.

“Once (Talawanda School District) events have taken place, if there is an available time, it opens up opportunities for outside groups whether it be club teams at the university of other club teams, marching band competitions … the possibilities are endless for how you can use this surface,” Weaver said.

Randi Thomas, chair of the Field of Dreams Committee and director of institutional relations at Miami University, said other contributors to the Field of Dreams campaign include the THS Athletic Boosters, the THS Band Boosters, the Talawanda Bantam Football Organization, the Wachenheim family and several local families.

Thomas estimated the installation cost of an artificial turf field to be approximately $550,000. Although the initial expense of a turf field is higher, the maintenance of turf fields costs roughly $35,000 a year less than the care needed for natural grass fields, Thomas said.

Weaver said the fundraising deadline for the turf field is June 1. If the Field of Dreams Committee is unable to raise enough funds by this date, contractors will install grass immediately to allow the grass to grow for two years before it can be used. However, turf fields can be placed in six weeks, so Weaver said the exact timeline would be determined by the installation company.

THS is expected to open at its new site at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. Weaver said the school district is in the process of selecting which company will construct the new facility.