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Oregon team earns a colorful identity with new turf

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What color is the FieldTurf at Eastern Washington? Red.

What color is the FieldTurf at West Salem High?

Nicknamed “The Black Hole” before the funds were raised in full to purchase it, the new black FieldTurf at West Salem was finished Thursday afternoon, in time for the football team to host South Medford (Medford) on Friday night.

The turf color gives the school a unique identity.

“It never dawned on me that it would mean as much to this community as it does,” West Salem athletics director Bryan Sutherland said. “From what we understand it’s the only black field in the country. That’s really taken off over here.”

A group from West Salem that included project manager Ryan Allbritton, Bill McNutt, West Salem principal Ed John, Sutherland and West Salem football coach Shawn Stanley spearheaded a drive to raise $437,000 to replace the green FieldTurf that was installed for the school’s 2002 opening and had since worn out.

But FieldTurf offered a price break if West Salem chose a unique color so the school is going with a black field at a cost of just under $300,000.

Because of the companies’ schedule that was in place before West Salem completed its fundraising, there was a tight window for installation.

There was talk that if there were any complications West Salem’s season opener might have been moved.

“FieldTurf has been fantastic on it,” Sutherland said. “They’ve got two crews down on it. There’s more guys here than you’re going to see on any other field. That was all Steve Coury and Bill McNutt.”

Sutherland said he read a study that said that the hottest FieldTurf color was gold because it reflects heat and that black doesn’t reflect the heat as bad as some colors.

In an ideal world, Stanley said, the team would play on a green-grass turf that never gets muddy. But this is the real world, where the National Weather Service says Salem gets an average of 11 inches of rain in September, October and November. Very few schools in the conference still play on real grass, he said.

West Salem’s football players will wear new green jerseys with black pants to avoid any complaints by opponents.

“It’s kind of, I guess, a preemptive strike by me,” Stanley said. “I want to win because we’re better, not because you can’t see us.”

The new field is noticeably softer.

The lines for soccer and boys and girls lacrosse are sewn into the carpet and give a visual pop against the black and white background.

The only green left on the field is in the “Titan” script in the end zones and the “WS” in the center of the field.

Four major sponsors — Les Schwab Tire Centers, Roth’s Fresh Markets, Meduri Farms and the West Salem Rotary Club — each gave major donations to the project and their logos have been sewn into the home sideline of the field, off the playing surface for all sports.

“I think given the economy the way it is, I think people realize now the ideal of having all the money we want in the public trough, if you will, is gone,” Sutherland said. “It’s a terrible economy, things are tough.

“We’re going to have to turn to advertising, that’s the way it is. All four of those are West Salem businesses.”

West Salem’s football team has been practicing on the school’s grass baseball field during fall practice because of the surface replacement.

The varsity players got to walk on the finished field for the first time Thursday afternoon.

What Stanley hopes is that West Salem’s on-field play — much like Boise State and Eastern Washington — is the school’s identity.

“I think it’s cool that we have a field that’s uniquely different,” Stanley said. “The goal was not to have something nice or have something different, but to have something that is safe for our team and safe for our opponents and the community.

“For me the best part is I don’t have to worry about the kids getting hurt falling on the field.”

Contributing: Wire reports

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