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FOOTBALL: Oxford families hope community can pull together to pay off blue turf field

The Oxford football team had quite a first year playing on its new turf in 2011, reaching the playoffs before bowing out to Rochester Adams in a pre-district game. (The Oakland Press file photo)

Roy Rogers, kneeling, who works for DRC Enterprises, helps to lay down the new field turf at Oxford High School last summer. The field is used by the school's football, soccer, and lacrosse teams. (The Oakland Press file photo)

OXFORD — To use a phrase from the world of sports, it’s crunch time for the Oxford turf committee, with two weeks left to come up with a check for $300,000, the remainder of a $400,000 loan taken out by the committee last year for the construction and installation of a highly-publicized blue-turf athletic field at Oxford High School.

If the money is not repaid by Sept. 1, five Oxford community members who put their houses up as collateral for the loan face foreclosure by AstroTurf LLC, the Georgia-based company that built and installed the state-of-the-art field, one of only three like it in the United States.

Although prep football is the featured sport to be played on the field, many other Oxford High School athletic teams use it as well, including soccer and lacrosse.

As a result of the dire circumstances, the turf committee and local residents are frantically trying any and all last-minute measures to raise the money.

“Lots of people around the community are stepping up to the plate and chipping in to get this thing repaid,” said Jim Reis, chairmen of the turf committee and one of the home owners that stand to be foreclosed upon. “I’m honestly blown away by the response by everyone in this town and beyond. A woman from Warren just sent in a check for $1,000 the other day when she read about our situation. “We’ve just been overwhelmed by all the support.”

Click here for The Oakland Press' story announcing that the school would install the blue turf

Fundraisers have already been scheduled by a number of area businesses. The Oxford Little Caesars franchise will donate half of all proceeds from purchases on August 18 and the local McDonalds will donate the entire day’s proceeds from sales on a still-to-be-determined date. Interested parties can donate money to the cause via PayPal by logging on to www.oxfordboosters.com.

Prior fundraising attempts the past year have only generated a little more than $100,000.

The turf committee has openly admitted that they might have to consider selling naming rights to the field as another means of helping repay the loan.

In addition to Reis, committee member Bill Keenist, an executive with the Detroit Lions, also put his house up.

(READ WHAT MIPREPZONE'S JASON SCHMITT AND KOSMO HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE SITUATION).

The prospect of building the field had been bounced around for a while, before a 2010 bond issue was rejected by voters and the turf committee formed to get the concept turned into a reality.

“This was all done for the sake of the kids,” Oxford School Board Superintendent William Skilling said. “That tells you a lot about the type of people that put up those houses and the kind of people we have here in our town. The school board will do everything we can do to support the community-wide effort to raise the funds needed."

Skilling is proud of the city's blue-turfed venue.

"In just a year's time, the field has become iconic. People are coming here from all around the state to see it for themselves.”

According to AstroTurf LLC, nobody from the turf committee has requested an extension on the September 1 deadline.

When asked if the kind of deal AstroTurf LLC entered into with the committee was normal procedure for its business, Rich Jordan, AstroTurf LLC’s Michigan-based vice president of sales and marketing said, “It’s not typical, but given the circumstances we didn’t want the kids to have to start the school year without the field, so we came up with a creative solution. Our relationship with the committee has always been solid.”

Reis is of a similar mindset and said that he and the committee bare no ill will towards AstroTurf LLC, a company that came in at the last second last summer to get the field up and running following initial dealings with ProGrass LLC out of Pittsburgh falling though.

“They (AstroTurf, LLC) saved the day for us last year and we have nothing but positive things to say about them as a business,” Reis said. “This field has become a cornerstone of the community in such a short period. The other night we had five different teams practicing on it under the lights at the same time.”

Last Updated: 8/20/2012 5:08:44 PM EST

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