REFUGIO, Texas, Aug. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The lens of popular culture has long viewed Texas football in terms of mythical proportions. North Dallas Forty. Friday Night Lights. The Junction Boys. The gridiron values toughness, resolve, dedication and strength of will in a way that runs parallel with the qualities exemplified and honored by Texans throughout the state's storied past. At its root, the sport is a powerful force that can galvanize communities in a way that is unparalleled. But it's not a Hollywood myth. This tradition is alive and breathing in the small Texas town of Refugio, where a state-of-the-art AstroTurf® field was recently installed at Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium, home of the powerhouse Refugio Bobcats football team. A perennial contender upgrading its facilities is certainly noteworthy, but the story of how this field came to be is both inspirational and a case study in determination and practical problem solving.
Refugio is a hardscrabble town in South Texas comprised of fewer than 3,000 souls. It seems appropriate that the tough-as-nails Hall of Fame flamethrower Nolan Ryan was born here. The townsfolk have endured economic hardships which have shrunk the population over the last few decades. But one thing has remained constant -- the success of the Refugio Bobcats on the football field. The Class 2A dynamo has made the playoffs 34 of the last 35 seasons, including 21 consecutive seasons heading into this year. In 2011, head coach Jason Herring led the squad to its 3rd ever state title, validation for a program whose sheer dominance had ruffled a few feathers of those rivals steamrolled by the Bobcat freight train.
Underneath all the glory, Coach Herring had a nagging worry that wouldn't let him go. Every year, the school district would spend tens of thousands of dollars maintaining the grass field at Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium, and every spring they would spend another $40,000 re-sodding the field, despite their best efforts to keep it alive. Experts were brought in from Texas A&M to consult. Salt tolerant breeds of grass were shipped in from out of state. But no matter how hard they tried, every spring they'd be back to square one having to lay new sod because they couldn't keep the grass going for more than a year.
"We were the poster child for needing artificial turf," said Coach Herring. "Salty soil with dry conditions, plus everyone from peewee to junior high to varsity playing and practicing on that field. Not to mention band and cheerleaders."
Finally an idea struck Coach Herring. The nearly one million dollars it would take to purchase a quality synthetic turf field was always too much for the district budget to swallow, but what if he asked for some seed money that could be used as the foundation for an artificial field in the future? In January of this year, the School Board consented to his plan, and surprised the coach with a $250,000 grant towards an artificial field for the stadium.
"I was blown away by the amount -- it was more than I could have hoped for," said Coach Herring. "To be honest, I thought that we had a legitimate chance to get a field in three to four years. I was hoping we'd be able to give these kids a great field that would last for years down the road, but I didn't expect it to happen so soon."
What transpired next is the stuff of legend. Coach Herring took a thousand dollars out of his savings account and contributed it towards the field. He began a fundraising campaign in Refugio, and enlisted the help of one of the community leaders, Judge Rene Mascorro. Judge Mascorro solicited donations from the business community while the coach went to the townspeople. By February, the seed money had ballooned to $400,000. It kept snowballing and to everyone's surprise they reached their goal of $800,000 in four months, not four years. The dream became a reality almost overnight, and installation of the brand new artificial surface was completed August 10th.
"Our new AstroTurf field is simply stunning," says Coach Herring. "There is no doubt in my mind that we have the very best artificial playing surface in the entire industry."
That new playing surface is the AstroTurf GameDay Grass™ 3DH synthetic turf field. The product features a monofilament Horseshoe™ fiber, sand and rubber infill, and AstroTurf's patented RootZone® technology. The monofilament Horseshoe fiber has an omega shape, giving the "blades of grass" structure and resiliency. The RootZone is a proprietary infill stabilization system of textured nylon that holds the infill in place, preventing splash and migration. The result is a clean, consistent playing surface which has garnered rave reviews for its performance, durability and safety.
Installation of the field was handled by AstroBuilders, the same outfit responsible for the incredible AstroTurf conversion of the Alamodome for that facility's first-ever Major League Baseball games this past March. Burnside Services constructed the stone base for the field, and Trey Schneider of PBK Sports was hired as a private engineering consultant on the project.
Why AstroTurf? Coach Herring admits he was actually leaning towards one of their competitors after years of "layman's research" in preparation for the one day he hoped to bring an artificial surface to Refugio. But as he tells it, Jake Burnside convinced the coach to take a short drive with him to Corpus Christi to see an AstroTurf field he had helped install. The three year old field at Buccaneer Stadium looked brand new, with vibrant colors and fibers still standing up straight. Coach Herring donned some cleats and played around on the field, running and jumping and making cuts. He was blown away.
"I walked away from that stadium knowing we had to have an AstroTurf field," admits Coach Herring. "It was soft but not too soft, it looked fantastic, and none of the little black rubber infill was splashing around like other fields I'd seen."
As might be expected of a coach whose attention to detail would make the military envious, Herring pored over every aspect of the field selection and kept a watchful eye over the installation process. When they promised a six inch stone base, he was out there with a ruler to make sure it was right. According to Herring, he felt a personal responsibility to all of the people of Refugio who had donated their hard earned money to give these kids a quality field. Plus, with a set budget there was no wiggle room for upgrades or change-orders, so they needed everything done right the first time without any unexpected additional charges.
"The team of AstroTurf, Burnside, Schneider, Swank and Boyd* are absolutely amazing," raved Coach Herring. "They did exactly what they said they'd do at exactly the price they said they'd do it. If AstroTurf tells you they're going to do something, you can take it to the bank."
The Bobcats held their first scrimmage of the season on the new playing surface last week. According to Herring, it was the largest crowd they've ever had for a scrimmage in his seven seasons as head coach at Refugio. It makes sense -- they wanted to see the team they love practice on the new field they all helped build.
* Kevin Swank is president of AstroBuilders and Jake Boyd was lead installer on the project.
For athletes and sport enthusiasts, AstroTurf has redefined the way the game is played. The company offers advanced, state-of-the-art, multi-sport and specialized synthetic turf systems with proprietary engineered technologies, leveraging the industry's first vertically integrated manufacturing system. A growing number of high schools, colleges, professional sports teams and municipalities continue to select AstroTurf-branded products for their premium quality, technical superiority, and safety. To learn more, visit www.astroturf.com.