Before the Olympics in London held its closing ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 12, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory held a special ceremony of its own to officially debut its football team’s new playing surface adorned with the school colors.
St. Mary’s hosted a dedication for its new red Fieldturf football field on Saturday, Aug. 11, which was then followed by the annual St. Mary’s Red-White team scrimmage game.
The dedication included a blessing of the field by Bishop Francis R. Reese of the Archdiocese of Detroit, who was joined on the field by the school’s chancellor and rector, Fr. Tom Machalski, as well as the school’s headmaster, James M. Glowacki.
“We thought the ceremony was fabulous,” Glowacki said. “We had a large turnout of donors, alumni, students, families, and former players, and we couldn’t be happier.”
He joked about the intra-squad scrimmage, saying he wanted St. Mary’s to “be the first team to win on the field.”
The Eaglets are just the third football team in the country to use a red field, joining Eastern Washington University and New Braunfels Canyon High School in Texas.
The new field coincides with the 100th anniversary of the St. Mary’s football program, which will be celebrated during the 2012 season.
“The field looks awesome,” said St. Mary’s Athletic Director George Porritt, who is also the school’s head football coach. “There’s no easy word to describe it. Just the look of it under the lights, it’s a beautiful looking field. We’ve scrimmaged on it and it’s a great playing surface.”
The Eaglets finished 12-2 last season and are the defending Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 3 state champions.
The Eaglets will play their first regular season game on their new field on Sept. 7 against St. Marcellinus Secondary School of Ontario, Canada.
St. Mary’s began the work of replacing the school’s natural-grass field after a ground-breaking ceremony on June 5.
St. Mary’s Athletic Facilities Director Robin Goddard went so far as to fly out to Eastern Washington University to meet with the school’s athletic director, Bill Chaves, as part of his research into the project, and said that the new field has already received national attention.
Goodard helped start a fund-raiser to generate the $575,000 necessary for the project, which also included a renovation of the football field’s bleachers.
One fund-raising initiative was a program to have donors’ names inscribed on bricks at the stadium.
“We sold bricks to alumni at $500 a brick,” Goddard said.
The turf was laid by Oakwood Industries, while the turf was made by Pro Turf of Georgia. Merlo Construction laid the foundation.
The construction of the additional bleachers has yet to be completed, but Engan Tooley Doyle & Associates of Okemos is overseeing the project, which St. Mary’s officials state will be completed before the team’s home opener.
The idea of a red football field was not without its critics, as some panned the idea of a playing surface with a color other than the traditional green.
“Even people who are critics and staunch traditionalists said ‘Wow!,’” Glowacki said.
“I don’t care if you’re a traditionalist or not, it’s an awesome-looking field,” Porritt added.