By Steve Ruman
The Niles High football team made history in November when it hosted its first home playoff game.
The event proved to be historic for another reason — it was the last contest played on natural grass at Bo Rein Stadium.
Niles school board members on June 3 approved a resolution authorizing a contract with ProGrass LLC, which will begin installing synthetic turf at the stadium next week.
The project is expected to be completed by Aug. 19, when the Niles girls soccer team hosts Lakeview in the stadium’s first scheduled sporting event of the 2013-14 school year.
The projected cost of the turf installation is $526,000. The REIN Committee will pay for $270,000 of the work, while the school district will be responsible for the remainder of the costs.
The REIN Committee was formed in 2007 by a handful of Niles citizens seeking ways to maintain and upgrade Bo Rein Stadium through private donations.
“When we first organized, many people viewed the idea of turf as a luxury,” REIN Committee chairman Tim Parry said. “Today, it’s a necessity.
“Considering the use the field now receives on a yearly basis, it was imperative that we move toward synthetic turf as soon as possible.”
The overabundance of events played at Bo Rein Stadium is largely a result of the construction of a new high school, which opened in April.
The school is located behind the visiting bleachers of the stadium.
The construction site eliminated a field which in the past was used for practice, and for junior varsity soccer games, as well as lower level football games.
In the fall of 2011, 51 athletic events were played at Bo Rein Stadium in a 67-day period between late August and late October.
Poor field conditions forced Niles to move its final home varsity football game to Girard.
It was one of several events which were moved during the course of the fall sports season.
Approximately 58 events are scheduled to be played at the stadium during the upcoming school year.
“There are weeks where we will use the field four or five nights in a row,” Niles athletic director Marc Fritz said.
“We got lucky last year because the weather was decent, but in the long run we just wouldn’t be able to continue to get by with natural grass.
“Going to synthetic turf will eliminate a lot of headaches. It will also provide us with additional opportunities.”
In addition to sporting events, Fritz said the stadium will now be able to serve as a practice field for the band, and can be used for physical education and fitness classes.
He also hopes the upgrade will help attract postseason football games and other non-school related events.
“It can serve as an extended classroom, and it can help generate revenue for our district and booster clubs,” Fritz said. “This opens up a lot of possibilities.”
Niles Board of Education president Tony Perrone noted that it costs the district approximately $35,000 per year to maintain natural grass at the stadium.
The cost includes seeding, fertilization, aerating, watering, painting and the cutting of grass.
“The money we’re putting into the project is the same money we would be spending on maintaining grass,” Perrone said. “This will benefit our district and our students, and it will be a huge source of pride for the community.”
“We have new gyms and a beautiful baseball field. Now with this, our overall high school sports venues will be among the best in the area.”
ProGrass offers an eight-year warranty on its synthetic turf, though under normal use it generally lasts beyond a decade.
Cost to replace the turf is estimated at roughly $300,000.