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St. Mary's begins fundraising drive to install red turf

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ORCHARD LAKE — By this time next year, it’s a good bet Oxford won’t be the only high school in Oakland County with a main athletic field that’s not colored in traditional green.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s has begun a fundraising effort to install a red-colored artificial playing surface at its campus, and it’s believed it would be the only red-colored playing surface at a high school in the country.

The field will be patterned after the field at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., which became the only college football program to have a red-colored playing surface when it was installed last year.

St. Mary’s Director of Facilities Robin Goddard said he flew out to Cheney on Labor Day weekend and met with administrators at Eastern Washington to discuss the particulars of installing and playing on red turf.

“Our intentions are, if all the donations come through, to start putting it in next year,” Goddard said.

The field would be all red with white yard and sideline markers in between the end zones, while the end zones would be painted black.

While much more money still has to be raised, the school has already received pledges and is moving toward its goal of raising $600,000 to put in the turf.

New bleachers would also be installed around the field as well.

St. Mary’s is one of the few schools in the county that still plays on a natural grass surface, but like other schools that have installed artificial surfaces over the years, the cost of putting in the turf offsets all the maintenance costs and wear and tear of a grass field.

Rainy days like Monday are a perfect example since the football team couldn’t practice on the main field in fear of wearing it out before Friday’s huge homecoming game against Birmingham Brother Rice.

That wouldn’t be an issue with a more durable artificial surface, which would also be used for the soccer and lacrosse programs at the school and could also be rented out to youth teams around the area.

“I still like our natural grass, but what (it would do) in the grand scheme of things for all these sports is big,” St. Mary’s athletic director/football coach George Porritt said. “Each year, it gets tougher to maintain.”

This past summer, Oxford became the only high school in the country to install a navy blue artificial surface at its school.

If St. Mary’s successfully completes its fundraising efforts, it will mean the county will have two athletic fields not seen at any other high school in the country.

E-mail Keith Dunlap at

Last Updated: 9/27/2011 10:27:35 AM EST

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