Spring sports will have a new look at Nacogdoches High School starting in 2020 after the NISD Board of Trustees announced recently that up to $2.5 million from the school’s budget would be spent on facelifts to current athletics facilities.

Nacogdoches first-year Director of Athletics Darren Allen confirmed Friday that the much-needed changes to Dragon (baseball) Field, Lady Dragon (softball) Field, the NHS tennis courts and Dragon (football) Stadium are set to get underway in mid August to early September, with the cost estimated at this time to be just over $2 million.

Dragon Field and Lady Dragon Field will be turned into completely artificial turf fields by the district, while the high school tennis courts will receive a much-needed resurfacing, Allman stated. The district will also add to concrete walkway in front of the fieldhouse at Dragon Stadium to allow visiting fans more room to walk around to their side of the stadium instead of sometimes having to walk on the running track and/or the artificial turf behind the football endzone.

Allman said by waiting until the fall to begin the project, it will be a slower time of year for the companies that handle resurfacing of fields so they won’t have a problem getting finished before the seasons start in early 2020. He said because the same company can not only complete the resurfacing of the baseball and softball fields, but the tennis courts as well, the duration of the work should be shorter once they start the project on the NHS campus.

To the naked eye, Dragon Field might appear to be an excellent facility with the district continuing to spruce it up each season with aesthetic updates. But a elevation problem resulting in about a eight-foot slope from home plate to right field has caused some drainage problems in addition to obvious struggles for defensive players on that part of the field.

“The baseball field requires a substantial amount of excavation because there is a steep slope from one corner of the field to the other,” Allman pointed out. “This effects the fence, draining and causes other issues.”

Allman said the tennis courts are in relatively good shape, but the haven’t been resurfaced in a number of years. “We need to get back to the original surface. Over time the surface looses its tracking as it wears down. And since the company that is doing the baseball and softball fields has a lot of experience doing tennis courts, it makes sense to do it along with the other projects.”

In the last two years a number of East Texas teams — including the Dragons and Lady Dragons — have struggled playing on their home surfaces at times because of wet weather in the spring. Many games were postponed, canceled or even moved. The resurfacing will change all that, according to Dragon head baseball coach David Greer.

“As far as the baseball team, this is huge,” Greer said. “It will be a big advantage to have the ‘turf’ on our field because we’ll get to play games that we otherwise would have had to cancel or reschedule. And this is not only for the varsity program, but the subvarsity, as well. It will help the program as a whole.

“And, in addition to games, it will allow us to practice on the field more during rainy weather, instead of having to go inside our indoor facility or go into the gym. Pretty much, unless there is lightning in the area, we can be out there working out or play games.”

Greer said the turf field will allow less headaches and changes in scheduling for the Dragon Baseball Tournament, and possibly allow a junior varsity tournament to be scheduled. The school will be able to host many east Texas playoff games, as well.

Allman said there is also a large saving in artificial turf fields because of less man-hours needed to mow, seed, fertilize and to spend for other necessary costs, including the cost of those products, and no need to water the field and other maintenance.

“I definitely think they pay for themselves,” Allman said when talking about the advantages. “The reason people are going to artificial fields is at least they are cost neutral. I think that’s proven. When you talk about manpower, maintenance, water, equipment, fertilizer and other expenditures, they’re eliminated.

“It’s one of those things that we feel our school board and administration are really committed to putting our kids in the best situation they can and that is another great reason.”

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