Jul. 6—WAGNER — Many see a turf football field as a multimillion dollar albatross. Wagner sees it as a two-decade investment.
When the Red Raiders host Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian in their first home football game of the season on Sept. 3, they will unveil a new $2.2 million athletic complex that features a turf football field, new track, long jump and triple jump pits and pole vault runways and fencing.
It has been nearly 25 years since Wagner updated its football field and track, but the crown in the field got too big and the base of the track cracked. Repairs like new dirt and watering systems would have cost $970,000 — compared to $1.4 million just to install turf — so the school began to look at alternative options.
Typically the span of a turf field is 10 years, but Wagner Principal and activities director Neil Goter found reassurance from Garretson and Sisseton that the field could last twice as long, making the price tag a more viable option long-term.
"A lot of the price is the base and not the turf itself," Goter said. "They dug down 3 or 4 feet so you had a good base, good run-off and no dipping. So that was a big part of it. ... Garretson has had (turf) for more than 20 years and they're thinking about getting new turf and Sisseton is planning on getting 20 years out of theirs. Projections based on 10 years don't make sense to do turf, but when you do it over 20 years it was about a wash."
A grass field requires constant maintenance, whether it is fertilizer, watering or manpower to line the field prior to each game. In fact, Goter estimated it took more than 10 hours to prepare the field prior to the first game of each season.
Getting closer to laying turf and asphalt pic.twitter.com/HE4eMoKgR0
— ngoter (@GoterNeil) June 28, 2021
Meanwhile, lines and logos are sewn into a turf field upon installation and it can be used for practice without wear and tear. The biggest challenge for a turf field are ultraviolet rays, which can break down fibers in the turf and are usually the determining factor of the lifespan of the field.
But Goter believes more schools like Wagner will trend toward turf fields in the future because of the lack of maintenance. Eighteen Class 11AAA and Class 11AA schools will play home games on turf this season, but it is less common in smaller classes.
Wagner joins Garretson, Sisseton, and Wall as the lone South Dakota schools with turf fields on campus among 11A, 11B and nine-man schools. Meanwhile, multipurpose turf fields are surging for high schools across the country.
"Companies come back with a 10-year projection and I told the board that a 10-year projection isn't fair when I started talking to other schools," Goter said. "When you talk about 20 years of water, reseeding and the manpower, it makes it more attractive."
Goter does not believe the new turf will have an impact on the team's performance, but it could open the door to hosting more events in the future if needed.
Mitchell, which brought turf to Joe Quintal Field in 2018, hosted 17 soccer and Kernel football games last year, along with Dakota Wesleyan University's home football games and the All Nations Conference semifinals and championship football games. Mitchell has also hosted local teams when their home fields were unplayable.
"Athletic directors don't usually get excited about hosting other people," Goter joked. "When you get a little older, one of the last things you want to do is host two other schools. But if it had to be that way, we would certainly welcome them."