UPDATED: Viking Stadium getting turf surface

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, August 4, 2022

(Editor’s Note: In the original story posted online at leaderpub.com and the one that will appear in print Saturday said that ESSER [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund] money was used to fund the new synthetic turf at Vikings Stadium. That was incorrect. That money cannot be used for such a project. We regret the error.)


NILES — Big changes are coming for the Niles Athletic Department.

After the Niles Board of Education accepted a big in May to install synthetic turf at Viking Stadium, construction is finally under way.

The new field, which will also be used by the boys and girls soccer teams and the band for competitions, will not be ready for the 2022 season opener. In fact, Niles Athletic Director Matt Brawley has targeted the final home game of the regular season as the first game to be played on the new surface, which A-Turf is installing.

Currently, the natural grass has been removed from inside the track, which will remain, and A-Turf is removing dirt and the old drainage system in preparation for beginning the process of putting in a new drainage system and building a base on which the synthetic turf will be placed on top of.

The architect for the project is CARMI Design Group out of Edwardsburg.

Niles School Board President Dana Daniels is pleased that the district can continue upgrading its facilities— indoors and outdoors. Installing a synthetic surface will save Niles Community Schools a great deal of money in the long run.

“The grass field was taking up about $50,000 a year in resources,” he said. “Quite frankly, the quality of the field was pretty poor.”

Niles Superintendent Dan Applegate said the money used to fund the project came from a variety of places, but not ESSER [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund], which was previously stated in an online story at leaderpub.com and in the print edition Saturday.

“The district did not use ESSER funds to pay for the turf field, the district used a combination of generous local donors and sponsors, as well as capital funds to pay for the turf field,” Applegate said.

Viking Stadium will not only be the home of the middle and high school football teams, but the soccer teams, the band, and other sports, which will be able to hold practices outdoors in the spring when the weather is nice enough for them, but the natural grass fields are still unusable.

“The board has been so supportive of this,” Brawley said. “This has moved extremely fast. We decided that this was the route we wanted to go, probably in late November, and basically got it agreed upon in January or February.”

Daniels said that this project sends a message.

“This is not just about having a turf field,” he said. “We also want to show our student-athletes that we care about them and we want to get the best for them.”

Brawley agreed with Daniels on the added advantages the turf field gives Niles Athletics beyond playing games on it.

“It is about Michigan weather,” he said. “We get times in March and in February where the fields are unplayable, but we will be able to go out and take ground balls. Softball can get out there, and baseball can get out there. We are not going to miss any games [girls soccer] because of the weather. The advantages are countless.”

Niles currently has five home games scheduled for the 2022 season.

Brawley said that the Vikings will play home games at either Berrien Springs, St. Joseph and Dowagiac. Berrien Springs and St. Joseph both have synthetic turf fields.

The Vikings open their season on the road against Wolverine Conference foe Sturgis Aug. 25. The following week, Niles is scheduled to play Buchanan, which tentatively is set to be played in Berrien Springs.

Besides the new turf field, Niles Community Schools is making improvements throughout the district, including new playground equipment at Eastside Connections, Ballard Elementary and Howard-Ellis Elementary; new hydration stations in all buildings and repaired the school entrance walkways at several buildings.

At Niles High School, the main entrance walkway, auxiliary gym and HVAC system in the gym and auditorium are receiving upgrades.

“We are thrilled to implement key quality-of-life improvements across the entire district that will benefit our students, families, teachers and staff,” Applegate said. “Many of these projects are either complete or will be complete by the first day of school. This is only possible thanks to partnerships with our funding partners and the Niles community, and we are grateful for their commitment as we strive to provide a safe space for children to learn, grow and play.”