Olentangy Liberty High School (OLHS) has partnered with the Liberty Athletic Boosters and the local Ohio Thunder traveling baseball program to install synthetic turf on the infield of both the school’s varsity and junior varsity softball fields.
During the Jan. 27 Olentangy Board of Education, Liberty Athletic Director Darin Meeker presented the details of the project proposal to the board.
“In the last several years, coach (Ty) Kashmiry has been our head coach and been really involved for the last five or six years with softball, and our program has grown,” Meeker told the board. “We’ve grown not just in numbers but in a variety of ways and interests at Liberty. Along with the growth of our softball program, an organization such as Thunder has grown as well, and I believe they are now somewhere close to 150 participants. Historically, they have used our fields, so it makes sense to partner together and continue to partner to provide opportunities for all of the students and softball players.”
The turf installation is estimated to cost $274,300, and those costs will be split evenly between the Ohio Thunder and Liberty softball programs. Levan’s Excavating, which recently laid the groundwork for the turf at Orange High School’s baseball field, will lead the installation. AstroTurf will be contracted to lay the turf.
Meeker said the hope, “if all goes well,” is for the installation of the turf to begin in August as to not upset the softball seasons coming up this spring or summer. Should the project begin on time, the field would be finished in October.
Both programs plan to pay off the loan used to fund the project in a seven-year timeframe. Meeker noted to the board that each of the turf projects completed at Liberty over the last eight years, which includes the football and baseball fields, were paid off “one to two years before the proposed term.”
Scott Wiley, president of the Liberty Athletic Boosters, detailed the softball program’s revenue that will allow it to pay its split of the turf costs. He said valuable, existing partnerships with organizations such as Ohio Elite, Worthington Wood Bat Association, and Prep Baseball Report will be extended as a direct result of installing the turf.
According to Wiley, the softball program earns $45,710 annually in field rentals. Combined with the $10,000 in fundraising, the total annual revenue of the program is $55,710. As for Ohio Thunder’s portion of the expenses, Wiley said a $225 player fee for the 145 players in the program will account for $32,625 in annual income. Those fees, along with a silent auction fundraiser that is expected to raise $30,000, will total $62,625 in income.
Kashmiry said during the meeting, “The reason we want turf on our fields is that we’re just going to get a lot more play based on Ohio, the weather isn’t that great in March and February, and even through April and May. Less weather-related games and cancellations. Teams can host us during their cancellations. Let’s just say we’re playing (Upper Arlington) and it rains and their field isn’t ready. We can send them right back over to our place, so that gives us a little advantage.”
Kashmiry added that installing turf will also lead to a decrease in maintenance costs of upwards of $8,000 per year, as well as a decrease in the time dedicated to maintenance by parents, players and coaches.
In addition to the cost reductions, Kashmiry went on to say that having the turf field will also create a steady revenue stream for the OLHS softball program through the ability to host tournaments and Little League programs, as well as renting the facility for practices and camps. With the increased revenue, he said further upgrades such as batting cages and bleachers would become feasible.
Kashmiry went on to say, “We are super proud of the fact that we will be one of the few complexes to have both baseball and softball fields, varsity and junior varsity, turfed in our community.”
Olentangy Board President Kevin O’Brien offered his support of the project, noting that the track record of all of the high schools that have taken on turf projects in the past has been pristine. “The track record here is strong, and we appreciate the work that you are doing,” O’Brien said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.