Steamboat Springs The new artificial turf covering Steamboat Springs High School's Gardner Field is a welcome sign for boys soccer head coach Rob Bohlmann.
"It's going to be a great situation," he said. "We've always done 90 to 95 percent of training off campus in the past, so the luxury of training and playing on campus is definitely a good thing."
High school sports teams were able to practice on the field for the first time Monday, Principal Mike Knezevich said.
Workers from Academy Sports Turf began installing the artificial turf July 29. Academy Sports Turf is based in Englewood, but the company installs artificial turf surfaces at sites across the country.
"They finished on time," Knezevich said. "It was amazing. They definitely finished the whole project in less than 100 days, and that in itself is incredible."
Knezevich said the project was particularly special because of all the people and local companies that donated labor and supplies. The project, with an estimated price tag of about $500,000, was funded by private donations and $250,000 from the city's Education Fund Board, which allocates revenue from the city's half-cent sales tax for education.
"It was such a community project," he said. "So many people gave their time."
To date, the high school's soccer and football teams have used the field for practice. The first game on the new turf is Saturday, when the football team opens its season against Kent Denver.
Bohlmann said the soccer team will have to adjust to the quicker play created by the artificial turf, but he thinks the field's consistency will be a positive change.
"It's a very true playing surface," he said. "There's no bumps or little clumps. It's like the outfield of Coors Field - perfect, with no irregularities."
"It's just amazing that any time I speak to any of the students that play there, they just get a big smile on their face," Knezevich said.
There also will be a new entrance to Gardner Field. On one side of the entrance will be a granite slab inscribed with the names of the people who donated to the field project. On the other side will be a granite slab with an inscription explaining the origin of Gardner Field's name.
The official dedication of the new field will take place at halftime of the Steamboat-Eagle Valley football game Sept. 15. Last year's playoff game between the two teams was played in mud created by several feet of melted snow.
Clarence Gardner's children will be on hand for the dedication. The field was named after Gardner in 1968.