Texas high school football is one of the biggest and most competitive sports in the country, and more and more it also features some of the nicest facilities, as well.
In 2014, for the first time, more than half (12 of 21) of Texoma's 11-man teams will play on artificial turf fields, leaving coaches and players very proud.
One of those coaches is Bowie's Dylan Stark. The Jackrabbits built a new, turfed stadium in 2009, then added all-turf baseball and softball fields before the spring of 2013.
"We are real fortunate here that they passed a second bond that included this baseball and softball field, so the softball baseball and football field are turf here," Stark says. "We feel real privileged to have that and real proud of our facilities."
Henrietta just installed a new all-turf football field this summer, and is working to have its baseball and softball fields redone with artificial turf, as well. "It's time," said Head Coach and Athletic Director Byron West. "You know, people around the area have gotten these fields and done these things, so I was proud for kids and for the community for us to have something like this for our community to look at."
Another reason coaches like the fields is safety. Thousands of pounds of soft sand and rubber granules are laid beneath the surface, which helps cushion the blow for their players when they get tackled into the ground. The hope is, maybe we'll see less injuries, and less head injuries, in this next football season.
Another Texoma school with a new turf field this coming season will be City View.
"With the water restrictions we have here in Wichita Falls, with no watering outside, we really worried about the safety for kids," said Mustangs HC/AD Rudy Hawkins. "Not only for concussions, but with the ankles and the knees and with all the injuries it come with playing on a hard surface. We feel like the turf is going to give us a softer playing field and be a lot more safe for kids."
Vernon also got in the act, installing a new surface for Leo Brittain Field at Lion Stadium.
But there is a catch: turf fields are not cheap, and for many schools it isn't that easy to just decide they're going to go turf.
"The biggest hold up for schools that don't have turf is financially," said Nocona HC/AD Brad Keck. "I would guess it would be somewhere around a million dollars to take a field from scratch and turn it in to a turf field, by the time you do the irrigation and all the drainage that goes with it."
Of course, with the drought conditions in Texoma the way they are, a main focus with turf fields turns to how much water they can conserve.
"We're not going to be out here spraying water on any of our fields," said Coach West. "We're going to do softball and baseball too, we're gonna save that money, save the man power, and hopefully make it safe for our kids to play on."
"The drought is a huge factor right now," agrees Nocona's Keck, who's school still has a grass field. "You wouldn't have to water your practice or your game field, because you practice on your field. So you wouldn't have that excess water."