LINCOLN — After reporting last week that Lincoln High School’s Keith Howard Memorial Stadium is receiving new artificial turf to the tune of $601,779, several social media commenters raised questions about the amount and the location.
“Too bad this money couldn’t be spent on our children’s education instead!”
Another said, “Munford girls softball needs an upgraded field!! And an indoor training facility. And it won’t cost $600K”
"I agree just doesn’t make sense shame on them"
The replacement of the synthetic grass is being done as what Talladega County Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey calls “routine maintenance.”
“We would always prefer to spend money on academic projects instead of capital ones,” Lacey said in response to these commenters, adding that once a facility is built, it must be maintained. “It's there; in order to take care of it and make it safe for students, we have to do routine maintenance.”
She also compares the situation to replacing a roof on a building, noting that you simply could not let a roof fall in.
County Director of Operations Kelvin Cunningham said the field had reached the end of its life span. “There were some areas where it (the turf) was worn out,” he said.
Cunningham explained that the turf used for the field has a lifespan of roughly 10 years. The field at Keith Howard Stadium had been in use since 2009, meaning it hit its threshold in 2019. The Talladega County Board of Education approved the replacement bid by Hellas Construction during its monthly meeting in May of 2019. Cunningham said funds for the replacement come from the School Board’s budget.
Cunningham said the field is also used for physical education classes.
When asked specifically about the comment pointing to work needed on Munford’s softball field, Cunningham said without going through the state-required bid process, he could not speak to what any other facility would cost.
Lincoln is the only school in Talladega County with turf that is used exclusively by a county school. Legion Stadium in Sylacauga also features a synthetic field and is used by both Sylacauga City Schools and B.B. Comer High School.
Talladega County School Board officials were not in office when the Lincoln turf was originally installed, so they were unable to comment on specifics. Legion Stadium’s turf cost $824,670 in 2016. The upgrades for the stadium were paid for by the Sylacauga Board of Education with help from the Talladega County Board, according to Daily Home articles.
Lincoln’s field was upgraded to have turf in 2009, following a push from then-head Coach Keith Howard, whom the stadium is named for. According to Daily Home reporting at the time, Howard said he felt the non-artificial field suffered due to constant practicing on the field. He said he believed that due to the location of Lincoln High School, it was difficult to build a proper practice field.
“By the time you spend money to build a practice field, if you took those dollars and put toward a turf field, with what you would normally pay in maintenance and painting, in the long run, it basically pays for itself,” he said.
Chad Martin, who was defensive coordinator at Lincoln High at the time, said money for the turf was raised through taxes. He also mentioned that Howard personally led fundraising efforts for Lincoln’s field house, which was built around the same time.
Howard suffered a heart attack during Lincoln’s season opener at Etowah and died in 2009. The following week, on Sept. 3, 2009, Lincoln played its first home game on the then-new synthetic turf.
The stadium, which had been named Lincoln Memorial Stadium for the first two years of its existence, was renamed Keith Howard Memorial Stadium prior to the game.