100 yards of dirt never looked so good to the Llano High School Athletic Department and Jacket football fans. What it means is—apparently—there will be no turning back. "This makes it real, that it is happening," insisted Athletic Director and head football coach, Craig Slaughter.
Synthetic turf will be the floor of Llano Stadium for the 2015 football campaign. "We will finish before the season," declared Jason Young of GreenFields of Union City, Georgia. That's the name of the turf and the company which makes it. Symmetry of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, is the general contractor, which will install it.
Slaughter: "We need it August 3." That's the first day of practice.
"This mimics grass; use it all the time, no brown spots, no dead spots," says Young. "There's consistency—all the same across the field. No need for water." GreenFields—like all the carpet manufacturers—maintains on its website this is safer than grass.
I remember when AstroTurf in the Astrodome in the mid-1960s was like an early gift from the 22nd Century. So was Roy Hofheinz's 'Dome. Then some folks decided to try it outside. "I played on AstroTurf," Young mentioned. "It was hard," and we got, "turf burns." Some players likened it to concrete when they talked in PG-13 terms. As a fan, it was miserable looking—it was an embarrassment to the so-called color, pale green.
Then, at some point, all that changed, and the scene of the gridiron was like a metamorphosis from Black & White to Technicolor. Young: "Sometimes on TV, you can't tell if it's grass or synthetic."
Longer fibers also made it much easier on the athletes' bodies. Now all they have to fear are 6'3", 275-pound linebackers.
"A good grass field is great," Slaughter states, but he adds, "it takes a ton of maintenance. Now, that will be virtually non-existent."
GreenFields has "3,000 fields in the world," but the one in Llano and the one being installed in Burnet will be the company's first two for football for any Texas high school.
Llano ISD Superintendent, Casey Callahan, says the cost of the field and track is "$1.6 million." The turf was approved a year ago in a bond election, and the new track won voters' okay in an election prior to that.
A spokesman for the athletic department at Texas A&M-Kingsville told me they've had synthetic grass (not GreenFields) for three years. "Everything has gone well, and, besides us, two high schools also use Javelina Stadium."
Symmetry Project Manager in Llano, Eddie Rodriguez, said, "Construction is going fine. We work 12-16 hour days including Saturdays and Sundays," and owner, Vicente Flores, mentions, "We've had no unforeseen problems."
"So many kids are about to be affected by improved facilities for football, tennis, track, baseball, and softball," Slaughter observed. "It's a great deal."

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