Update: Field reopening delayed until mid-September


After the rain damaged the field, workers stripped the artificial turf carpet from the field, leaving the gravel and remaining rubber infill, pictured here.

Note: This story has been updated from the original version published on Aug. 18 to reflect the delayed date of reopening.

Decatur Stadium’s field will not open until mid-September, according to Athletic Director Rodney Thomas, after a powerful storm on June 11 flooded, damaged and closed the field.

Previously, Thomas expected the field to open for practice on Sep. 1.

He received word, however, from SportsTurf on Friday, Aug. 24, that the field installation would not be completed until at least mid-September.

Thomas initially announced on Tuesday, Aug. 27, that the home football games versus St. Pius and North Springs would be played away at those respective schools. As of Wednesday, Aug. 29, however, the North Springs game has been rescheduled to Oct. 5, when it will be played at home in the returfed Decatur Stadium.

Water from the June 11 storm “rushed underneath the field and ‘floated’ the field, which actually lifted the field up,” Thomas said. “Gravel shifted around, spikes came up and it pretty much destroyed the field.”

At first, Thomas and Central Office staff, including Chief Operating Officer Noel Maloof, contemplated repairing the field, but nixed the idea after discovering it would cost $15,000-$20,000 for a one or two month repair, according to Thomas. Since the 10 year-old field was no longer under its eight-year warranty, “we then had to go through [the procurement process] so that we could have our fall sports season.”

SportsTurf has finished manufacturing the artificial turf to fit Decatur’s specifications, but delayed installation due to a lack of installation crews, according to Thomas. A high amount of damaging storms this summer, especially in the Northeast, increased demand for turf installations. Consequently, Thomas hopes that turf installation at Decatur will begin on Friday, Aug. 31, and finish by Sep. 20, as opposed to the initial projection of finishing by Sep. 1.

Until the Decatur Stadium opens, the football team will practice at Dekalb County’s Avondale Stadium on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, they will return to the field at the former United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH).

The football team arrived at workouts on June 12 to find an apparent “floating” field, senior inside linebacker CJ Warren said. After weight room workouts, the coaches gathered the team and told them they could not use the field for at least a few weeks.

For the rest of the summer, the team worked out in the Decatur weight room and did cardio conditioning around the school’s campus. When practices began around the start of the school year, the team’s home base suddenly became the UMCH field.

The team has had to allow for added travel time, spraying lines and variable grass conditions, among other additional challenges not faced in the Decatur Stadium.

“The past couple of months we’ve been put through a lot because of people getting injured and not having an actual field to practice on,” Warren said. “It’s really brought us together, I would say, because it’s forced us to compromise as a team and build our trust with one another… to be prepared for the games, wherever we are.”

The first two weeks of school brought tremendous amounts of rain, which muddied the grass field at the Children’s Home. Warren particularly remembers the practice on August 1.

“People were [saying] don’t step in the puddles,” he said, “and so the coaches said, ‘it’s just mud, water and dirt. Slide through it if you want to.’ So, we all started sliding.”

Rain has also posed challenges to the other student group primarily affected by the field closure: Decatur’s marching band.

“We haven’t really lost a lot of practice time because of the field,” drum major Nicholas Goldfarb said. “We’ve lost a lot of practice time because it’s been raining a ton the past two weeks.”

Four days before Band Camp started, Goldfarb and the band received word that they could not use the field. Consequently, they held Band Camp at the Ebster field and now rehearse there from 6:15-8:45, 30 minutes earlier than usual, due to a lack of light.

“It’s all stuff that we can work around: we can work around it being far, we can work around it not having lights, we can work around repeatedly [spraying yard lines on the field],” Goldfarb said. “Frustrating is probably the best word for it.”

The band only has the Ebster field rented until Sep. 1. Starting Sep. 3, they will practice twice a week for the first two weeks of September at the Winnona Park Elementary field but still plan to play all three movements of the halftime show by the end of the season. Goldfarb described this show as the most visually and musically challenging show the band has taken on in recent years, and cannot wait to play it for the first time in the Decatur stadium.

“It’s going to be really awesome to be back in front of that home crowd where everyone knows who you are and everyone wants you to do well,” Goldfarb said. “There’s just something about being in front of the home crowd that makes you feel like you can do anything.”

After another delay to the field reopening, Thomas also can’t wait for that moment.

“You’re almost at the point of ‘please, nothing else,’” Thomas said. “They’ve gone through a lot, but this is a very close-knit football team. The camaraderie amongst them is wonderful.”

Decatur beat Miller Grove, a team that went to the playoffs last season, for its first win of the season on Friday, Aug. 24. After the game, Thomas watched as the football team and cheerleaders joined the marching band on the field

“They were all one school family.”


View Football schedules and results here.