Elkhart Central begins transitioning Rice Field to turf

NOW: Elkhart Central begins transitioning Rice Field to turf

ELKHART, Ind. - The football stadium at Elkhart Central High School will look a little different next season.

The school began a process of renovations this week, starting with a summer transition from grass to turf at its historic Rice Field.

“We hope over the next several years, we can continue to bring Rice Field back to its glory with the turf field, maybe repairs to the stands and concession stands," said ECHS athletic director Brian "Buck" Buckley.

For now, the installation of field turf is the first priority.

With the help of hundred of thousands in fundraising dollars, Central has completed the first of what they believe will be an eight-week process leading into football season.

But Buckley said the decision to switch to turf was made with more than just Friday nights in mind.

“We'll be able to utilize [the facility] more," he said. "We’ll be able to play football seven days a week, so our younger kids can participate on it. Our band can march on it. When you’re dealing with a grass surface, often times trying to keep it good for Friday night, you’re shooing people off. Now we’ll be inviting people in.”

During that timespan of renovations, though, Central will be merging with Memorial to form the new unified school.

Elkhart High School will open in the fall of 2020, raising the question of benefits to the stadium renovations beyond the next two football seasons.

To Buckley though, Rice Field makes perfect sense to serve as the home site for Elkhart football games beyond the unification, and these improvements will only help its case.

"Rice Field has been around over 100 years," he said. "A lot of great football players have played here, and there have been a lot of great games. It’s pretty special to Elkhart.”

While nothing is official just yet, Buckley and Memorial AD Jaquie Rost have had initial discussions of using Rice Field for football, the incoming downtown aquatic center for swimming, and North Side Gym for basketball.

"We're working on locations for other sports [as well]," he said. "We have to work out some transportation things and figure what makes most sense so we get the best benefits for the kids."

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