Construction has begun at Northmor High School as part of the district’s plan to renovate and upgrade its athletic facilities.
Athletic Director Justin Hershberger noted that the improvements will be made in multiple phases, with the first phase focusing on the football field, track, stadium lights and some drainage issues — including the installation of an artificial turf field to replace the old natural grass one.
Hershberger noted that phase is expected to be completed by the beginning of August with the exception of the new surface for the track, which will be concluded shortly afterwards. Then, in 2021, improvements will be made to the baseball and softball fields, as well as potentially building a new concession stand. The school also plans to reverse the home and visiting bleachers for football games, which could see the addition of some new bleachers.
He said that there had been talk for some time concerning some things that needed improved and when he took the athletic director job, one of his first tasks involved organizing a list of what should be done.
“In my first fall (2018), I came up with a list of some items that needed to be addressed as far as facilities go,” he said. “They (the school board) came up with a plan to address all these items and address bus garage parking and some other things.”
The turf field came as a result of that brainstorming. Hershberger said that one potential item the school was looking into was lights for the baseball and softball fields, but after realizing how expensive they would be, head baseball coach Buck Workman suggested that for that price, they could install a turf field — something that made sense to him.
“We felt we didn’t have the staffing to maintain the football field,” he said. “Our maintenance staff does a great job, but they have other things to do and over time, it’s gotten worse and worse.”
The school also got first-hand experience at how useful the artificial surface could be when the high school football team had to use Highland’s premises during a recent playoff run due to rainy conditions.
“A couple years ago, when practicing for the playoffs, our fields got so wet we had to bus down to Highland to practice,” he said.
Hershberger said the $2.7 million project was approved by the school board last fall and the school system will be footing the bill over a 10-year loan. He added that the district’s financial forecast was good enough to make such an endeavor feasible, crediting former treasurer Tammi Cowell for putting them in a good situation financially.
Maumee Bay Turf is the head company for this phase of the project. The district also created a committee which includes Hershberger, as well as two school board members, the superintendent, treasurer and head of maintenance.
“It’s extremely exciting,” he said. “I’m an alumni of Northmor and for years, we were just known as ‘little ol’ Northmor’. It’s certainly something our football program deserves.”
While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had many negative impacts on high school athletics, Hershberger did note that it has led to the project getting started a bit earlier than planned, with the old field already having been stripped.
“It’s terrible with what COVID-19 has done to spring sports,” he said. “The only silver lining is that it allowed them to start earlier than they were going to.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS