This is one in a series of posts showcasing the most outstanding high school football stadiums with artificial turf. Every field has its own story. See the full list Here.
Three days after the Piedmont (Ala.) High School football team lost in the semifinals of the 2011 state playoffs, crews began a complete renovation of its Field of Champions stadium — including the installation of a new artificial turf field to replace natural grass.
Athletic director and head football coach Steve Smith didn’t want to waste any time getting started on the project, which pushed the $5 million mark and included expanded stadium seating for 3,500 at the Field of Champions; a new scoreboard; new locker rooms for baseball, softball and football; and a concessions stand. Additionally, a series of matching brick towers at the stadium mirror other brick towers at the gymnasium entrance and baseball and softball fields.
All renovations were completed before the end of the 2011-12 school year, and Piedmont remains the only school in the area with artificial turf. Smith says the project was a coordinated effort between city government leaders and school administrators to make Piedmont — once a city with secure manufacturing jobs in northeastern Alabama — more appealing to businesses, employees and their families.
As times changed, so did the economy. Job opportunities left, and Piedmont needed something to boost its appeal. Hence the renovation, funded by a federal Qualified School Construction Bond and refinanced local bonds. “It was basically a business decision,” Smith says.
The turf field has been a boon, not only for school district athletic events but also local youth sports teams and marching bands. An abundance of rain in the region often canceled youth league games. “We couldn’t afford to tear up the grass field during the football season,” Smith says, adding that some of money saved on maintenance might now go into a fund to replace the turf field when that need arrives.
Piedmont also began other progressive initiatives, including becoming the first city in the state to replace textbooks with laptop computers in 2009 for all students in middle school and high school. That arrangement, in partnership with Jacksonville State University and Apple, became a national model for other school districts.
Today, Piedmont High School has about 350 students in grades 9-12 and Smith — who speaks as proudly about the laptop program as he does about his sports facilities — considers the Field of Champions one of the best in the state.
And then there’s this: “I think artificial turf is the best investment you can make,” Smith concludes. “We’ve seen our overall injuries go down and have not had any leg or knee injuries. Zero. None.”