The Muleshoe Independent School District never felt an obligation to make the switch to an artificial surface on its football stadium. It just saw an opportunity.
The turf is part of a $2.6 million project to revamp the football field, with renovations also set for seating and a new running track.
“We wanted to redo our track,” Superintendent Gene Sheets said. “It needs to be replaced. We’re talking about the track and said, ‘if we’re ever going to talk about replacing the field.... we need to make that decision.’”
The decision turned out to be an easy one, once the district found out it had enough bond money to handle the $400,000 track improvements and the $800,000 cost for turf for the 2008 Class 2A Division I state football champions.
Work will start after the track season ends in late April, allowing a three-month window before football two-a-days in August. Sheets said there’s no particular stadium Muleshoe is basing its plans on, and they’re still touring various stadiums and talking to as many companies as possible to do the turf and/or the track upgrade.
Muleshoe officials are quick to say they don’t like to make a direct comparison to their football program and Clovis, a Class 5A New Mexico squad, but the rationales are pretty similar for Muleshoe.
First, they want to get more use out of the stadium.
“With the turf, we can use that every day,” Sheets said. “Not only can the varsity team use it every day, our junior varsity can use it, our band can use it.”
Second, they want to save money and labor on maintenance.
“It’s the trend of the future, I think,” Muleshoe Athletic Director and football coach David Wood said. “West Texas is losing water, and eventually that will catch up with us.”
Sam Whalin, the district’s facilities director, said he has not “put a pencil to” just how much money the district will save, but he doesn’t think the savings alone will pay for the field down the road.
When Clovis High installed turf at Leon Williams Stadium, Athetlic Director Brian Stacy said it saved the school about $78,000 in maintenance, and it also allowed the CHS soccer teams to have that and Yucca Middle School for home sites. Most of that capital was provided through private donors.
The money for the athletic upgrades at Muleshoe comes from $5 million in construction dollars left from bonds. There will also be a $1.4 million upgrade to the bleachers, which Sheets said will allow the stadium to seat 2,000 instead of 1,500.
Sheets is hopeful the move also helps the Mules during the Texas state playoffs. In cold weather, turf is more forgiving than a natural surface.
“In late November, we’ve been working out for the playoffs,” Sheets said. “We think this will help (us avoid) some of our late-season injuries.”