Ironton High School is giving it’s 80-year-old home a face lift.
The Fighting Tigers’ have outfitted Bob Lutz Field at Tanks Memorial Stadium with a new artificial turf surface.
“I’m thankful to the community groups and organizations that came together and made this possible,” said Ironton school superintendent Dean Nance said. “We’re very appreciative to have it, and we’re very thankful for those who made the pledges and have signed for the loan so we could have it now.”
The movement started a few years ago when some members of the community formed the “Turf Project Group,” but the movement picked up steam earlier this year when the group combined forces with the “Tanks Memorial Stadium Fund.” Both groups were non-profit organizations that accepted donations for the stadium. Along with a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, pledges from Ironton faculty and some funds from the school maintenance fund, the Stadium Fund was able to place a down payment on the nearly $600 thousand field earlier this year.
Construction on the field began in March, and only a few odds and ends remain before the field will be ready for Friday nights.
“We could play football on it right now, we’ve already had some conditioning and some practices on it,” said Ironton Athletic Director Mark LaFon. “Once the fence is up, we could host a home game.”
LaFon said he expects the fencing to be finished by the end of next week.
The artificial surface represents one of the most significant changes the stadium has seen since the NFL’s Ironton Tanks called the stadium home in the 1920s. The field features orange end zones with “Ironton” in one end and a script “Fighting Tigers” in the other spelled out in black letters.
For a program and a stadium with such a rich history, Lafon said he didn’t have much trouble convincing the community to embrace the changes.
“You’re always going to have some proponents for turf, some proponents for grass. But for the most part, after a lot of community input and involvement, because this is a community project, every came to a consensus that that was best for the school,” LaFon said. “There was not a lot of resistance.”
In addition to a drop in injuries and maintenance cost, Nance is excited that the field’s durability will allow more school programs to use the facility.
“I think the biggest advantage is that it’s going to allow more groups to use that field simply because you can’t wear it out,” he said. “It’s our philosophy to let as many teams and programs use that field as much as possible.”
Alex Hider reached at (740) 353-3101 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter