On Solid Ground

May 15, 2007

by Erin Greene

It has felt the touch of Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, withstood the stampede of ecstatic football fans and weathered both the fall rain and winter snow. It is the grass that carpeted the Ohio Stadium, and until last month its glory days were going to end with the final touchdown of the spring football game. That is, however, until the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department came along and offered to give it a second chance at life.

When Jean Winters, director of development for the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, read that Ohio State was removing its sod in favor of a synthetic field she recognized the opportunity to provide the city's youth with first-rate turf. Normally, due to budget restraints, the department uses an inexpensive brand of turf available for youth fields.

"We saw that Ohio State was giving up the sod and an idea was born in our office," Winters said. "Since we don't have a budget for turf this will probably last us for years."

Don Patko, Ohio State associate athletic director of facility management whom Winters worked with in arranging the relocation of the sod, agreed the fields are capable of enduring several seasons so long as it is maintained. The decision to donate the turf seemed to be a natural choice for the athletic department.

"It just made sense to donate the grass," Patko said. "Gene [Smith, Ohio State director of athletics] and I worked together on the process. It was something I was happy to be a part of. It is going to help someone else - and in parks and areas that really need it. It is one of those things you feel good about doing."

Winters also arranged with Smith a donation from athletics for the expenses associated with moving the turf.

"There are costs involved with moving the field," Winters said. "Ohio State deferred that cost. They were extremely generous with us."

Once the deal was finalized, the process of uprooting the sod began following the April 22 spring football game. Due to a sturdy clay-based foundation, the grass was successfully removed in just one day and transferred to both McCoy Park and Driving Park. The sod was split between the two parks to cover one baseball field at McCoy and two at Driving, which are now being enjoyed by summer youth sports teams. McCoy also is the home field for the Columbus State baseball team. But the turf means more than just a quality playing field for the citizens of Columbus.

"I am already hearing wonderful things from the community," Winters said. "It is a thrill for the kids to be able to play on the field of champions. It is a really excellent opportunity for them."

When the graduating spring class of 2007 takes the field June 10 at the Horseshoe they will be the first Buckeyes to test the new Field Turf. Meanwhile, the former turf will be receiving a test of its own as it provides youth the foundation needed to become the next generation of Buckeyes.