Artificial turf set to go down on Warrior baseball, softball fields

Lebanon High School’s baseball and softball fields are getting a makeover, with new artificial turf replacing the grass that has covered the infields.

Concerns about the upkeep of the natural grass and dirt of the old field made high school officials hesitant about letting other teams use the field, but according to organizers, the new turf will allow the fields to be more accessible and bring in more people to the Lebanon community for tournaments.

The unpredictability of early spring in Oregon also costs high school teams valuable practice time, organizers say.

A letter sent to prospective donors stated that the year-round advantages of turf infields “will benefit not only the high school programs, but also the hundreds of kids playing junior baseball and softball.”

“Turf also means more tournaments that bring tourism money into our community.  Thanks in large part to the wisdom of our city leaders and the evolution of Bob Smith Park, Lebanon is quickly becoming a destination for high quality youth tournaments played on exceptional fields.”

High school Head Baseball Coach Jeff Stolsig said access in wet weather alone will be a big step ahead for the Warriors.

“We wouldn’t be able to get on the field and when we did get on the field to play a game, there was a lot of times when we would not be able to get on the field for practice,” he said.

“In Oregon in early spring you just can’t count on the weather and this will help. Being able to play during inclimate weather – we don’t want to play in the rain but it will be nice. This will eliminate that.

The estimated $350,000 project is being funded by $75,000 budgeted by the Lebanon School District along with the help of Rick and Bernice Franklin, RFC Corporation, Al Sullivan, Albany Eastern Railroad and Ram Trucking – all of which committed to providing the rock and trucking that is a large part of the overall construction budget.

Actual laying of the turf was scheduled for early in the week of Aug. 12, as Lebanon Local went to press.

According to John “Tre” Kennedy, who is chairing the fund-raising portion, without the first two $10,000 commitments from Heather McDaniel and Tony and Cammie Bender, he isn’t sure that the turf would be going in this summer.

“We are just very thankful for people in our community stepping up donating labor, resources, their products and giving money too.” Stolsig said. “Every turn we take, there is someone giving us money, and we really appreciate it.”

Other Fund-Raising Committee members are Head Softball Coach Mardy Benedict, David Gillott, Casey Humphrey, Heather Johnson, Steel Maloney and Brian Vandetta.

Kennedy said fund-raising has gone well. The Lebanon Booster Club is offering opportunities to purchase commemorative bricks for amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000, depending on size and the number of fields at which bricks are placed.

“As of today, we are about there,” Kennedy said in early August. “We expect to exceed the goal and put that towards the next goal which will be the lights, so they can play at night.  This would not be possible without the community.”

For more information, contact Kennedy at (541) 258-3194.