Henrico County high schools are gearing up for some major upgrades.
The county is awarding a $5.18 million contract to Sports Construction Management Inc. to convert existing natural grass football fields at three high schools — Douglas S. Freeman, Hermitage and Varina — to synthetic turf fields.
Construction is expected to begin in January and be completed in July. Plans call for completing the upgrades in the existing fields’ footprints, improving underground drainage and stormwater systems, and replacing the existing running tracks around the fields.
Steve Hart, the capital project manager with Henrico’s Recreation and Parks Department, said the projects will be a boon for county tourism because the synthetic fields can be used more often for events. He added that there will be less of a chance of games being rained out as demand for field use is on the rise.
“Our seasons are expanding each year,” Hart said.
He called the current sites “some pretty well beat-up fields.” The new ones will be made with synthetic grass fibers filled in with ground-up coconut and sand and a shock-absorbent pad.
“It’s going to be pretty state-of-the-art,” Hart said.
Plans call for putting school names and colors on the tracks and school logos on the 50-yard lines. New goal posts and track and field equipment are being acquired as part of the project.
Hart said the county is in talks with school officials about an agreement to give the public more access to the fields when they aren’t being used for school programs.
The rest of Henrico’s high schools will be getting upgrades of their own. J.R. Tucker, Highland Springs and Henrico high schools will have new fields and tracks by August 2019, Hart said. Replacements at Mills Godwin, Deep Run and Glen Allen high schools will be ready for the 2020 football season, Hart said.
Henrico got five bids for work on the first three schools, with prices ranging from the low and winning bid of $5.18 million to a high of $6.97 million. Sports Construction Management, a North Carolina company, had the lowest bid by $78,100.
Hart said the turf slated for the high school fields is the same kind as the turf going in at Greenwood Park, where four multipurpose fields and eight sand volleyball courts are set to open in January. The park is located off Greenwood Road north of Interstate 295.
A second phase for Greenwood Park calls for adding five more fields, one of which would have some kind of seating. The second phase of Greenwood Park and the upgraded high school fields were part of the $419.8 million bond referendum that voters approved in 2016.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Pat O’Bannon said there was community support for building on the schools’ existing footprints rather than having to acquire more land. She said the benefits of the new turf fields include the padding, which will make impacts less intense for athletes; no longer needing to seed the fields; and the ability to modify them quicker when switching between sports.
“By doing this, they can use the fields for different sports one right after another,” O’Bannon said. “It allows (the fields) to be used year-round.”