DD2 investing $3.6M to upgrade to synthetic turf fields at high schools

John McKissick Field, the home field for Summerville High School, is the only game day field that has artificial turf.
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:29 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 6:50 PM EST
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - The turf wars in Dorchester School District Two’s extracurricular programs may be a few months away, but the district is working on changing the fields students and athletes play and practice on.

John McKissick Field, the home field for Summerville High School, is the only game day field that has artificial turf.

“We’re looking at all of our JROTC, our bands, our football, our soccer,” Deputy Superintendent Chad Dougherty said. “All of those teams could have the access to a facility during the school day.”

The district’s board approved Monday night to spend around $3.6 million to turn one field at each of its three high school campuses into synthetic turf. These include the game day fields at Ashley Ridge and Fort Dorchester high schools and the practice field at Summerville High School.

The district and booster clubs at all three high schools will be sharing the cost of the project.

Officials said when it rains in the area, the natural grass fields will get muddy and unusable, leading to accessibility issues with athletic and extracurricular programs.

Ashley Ridge High School Head Football Coach Shane Fidler said they sometimes postponed games with teams from out of state due to conditions on the field.

“We played a lot of games out here this fall, and a lot of them were muddy and slippery and really just put a lot of wear and tear on this field,” Fidler said. “It’s tough to maintain the field conditions for all of our opponents.”

Football players won’t be the only ones who will notice the change. Band directors said it’s not uncommon for students to drag their equipment through the mud when it rains.

“It’s absolutely wear and tear,” Ashley Ridge High School Band Director Meredith Melvin said. “We’ve had to replace wheels on equipment, and all of those are expenses that could go to other things for directly for students.”

“Anytime students are doing anything where you’re expecting them to play an instrument and run backwards at the same time, the familiarity of what they’re touching and what they’re feeling when they land on the ground is really important,” Summerville High School Band Director Leslie Gilreath said.

Dougherty said the district is not concerned about a potential rise in injuries, saying that concussions happen less frequently on turf than natural grass. However, he said that doesn’t only apply to athletes.

“Our bands have been practicing out on our parking lots, and so they’ve seen a rise of injuries because they’re out on that hard surface, that pavement,” he said. “They’re looking forward to be able to practice on the field or environment in which they’re going to be out on competition.”

The district said the renovations should be done sometime in August, ahead of football season starting. Should they run into unexpected delays, the district said changes to schedules could be in order.

“You have [John McKissick Field] here that can be accessed,” Dougherty said. “We might have to look at some schedules and changing some of those schedules around, so if you have a home match, maybe an away here at Summerville, we may have to do some of those things if it’s not playable.”