Along with new field turf and bleachers, the Morris football field will get a new scoreboard.
Along with new field turf and bleachers, the Morris football field will get a new scoreboard. — Rob Oesterle

MORRIS — One of the questions most asked about the Morris Community High School athletic facilities has been answered.

For many years, the prospect of adding an artificial turf field at MCHS has been talked about. At Monday night's District 101 School Board meeting, the board voted to accept quotes from Midwest Sports & Turf Systems and Correct Digital Displays for a new field turf football field and scoreboards for both the football field and main gym.

In addition to the turf field, the visitors' side (west) bleachers will be taken down and replaced with new bleachers and a press box, and the west side of the field will then become the home bleachers. On the current home side of the field, the main set of bleachers, also known as the reserved section, will remain while the set of bleachers to the north and south of the main bleachers will be removed. That side of the field will be the visitors' side when the 2020 season starts.

The cost of the project is projected to be $1.4 million.

"The turf, bleachers, and scoreboards will be funded by debt certificates, similar to bonds, which involves restructuring our existing debt from a prior project," Superintendent Dr. Craig Ortiz said. "The payment we have been making for many years will actually be reduced by about $50,000, but extended out for six additional years to cover the estimated project cost.

"We will also generate revenue from scoreboard advertisements which have the potential to offset a considerable part of our annual payment."

Morris athletic director Jeff Johnson noted that the new field, along with switching the home and visitors' side of the field, is a long time coming.

"It's something we have been talking about for years," he said. "The field is going to be great for the football team and the boys and girls soccer teams, but it will be much more than that. In the spring, the baseball and softball teams will be able to use it for practice if their field is too wet. The band will be able to use it in the summer for their band camp. Now, they use the parking lot.

"Our PE classes will be able to go outside and use it. Now, if you get a big rain, the classes are stuck inside for a few days because the fields are too wet. It will help at graduation time, too. As long as it isn't raining right at the time of graduation, we will be able to have it outside. There have been times when we had to have graduation inside even though the weather was nice, because the chairs were sinking into the ground.

"As far as the bleachers, the ones that are on the current visitors' side are old and need to be replaced. We will make that the home side so that our fans can have easier access to the indoor restrooms and concessions in the field house, as well as not having the sun in their eyes. We will look at making a possible entrance to football games by coming through the fieldhouse lobby and people will be able to park in the back lot and use the GAVC lot as well as being able to park in the front lot."

Johnson also said that the youth programs in Morris, such as the Morris Chiefs and Warriors football teams and the Morris Soccer Association, will have access to the field as well.

"We have been talking about it and it benefits pretty much everyone," he said. "The high school teams will have first priority, but with the youth football teams playing mostly on Sundays, we should be able to work out a schedule for them to use it."

In addition to the improvements on the outside facilities, Johnson said that there will also be new scoreboards and a new scorer's table installed in the main gymnasium with digital displays. He also said that the improvements won't end with this project.

"When you have a building like ours, you are going to have needs for improvements," he said. "From an athletic standpoint, there are such things as fieldhouse flooring, main gym flooring, main gym bleachers, locker room improvements. We have a capital budget and we will have to see what we have in the budget to make those improvements, too."

Johnson said that the field and bleachers should be completed by the time the Redskins host their first football game in the fall.