In the eight years that Jon Strodtman has been the varsity soccer coach at Hickman, his teams were lucky to play one home game at the school every other year.
That’s not a problem anymore. When the Hickman soccer team begins its season tonight against Rolla, it will be playing at the school, as it will for the other seven home games on its schedule.
That’s because tonight’s game is the first of any kind to be played on the new Fieldturf field, which the school installed over the summer. The Columbia Board of Education approved the $1.41 million plan to put in Fieldturf at Hickman and Rock Bridge in March.
In the past, the field at Hickman was used primarily for the varsity football team. According to Hickman athletic director Doug Mirts, if a team practiced on the field when it was muddy, the field was ruined until the new growing season when they could put new seed down.
Mirts also said that the new field allows the soccer and football teams, as well as the band and some physical education classes, to use the field, something that wasn’t possible with the old grass field.
“There have been more hours on it in the month of August than we used the whole last year,” Mirts said.
Since Aug. 7, the soccer and football teams have been splitting time on the new field, with the soccer team using it about every other day, Strodtman said. So far, the field has received mostly positive reviews.
“I love it,” Strodtman said. “It rolls beautifully, it has a nice bounce to it and it (the ball) doesn’t run away from you.”
Senior Blaise Parker said the turf field is “truer”, in that there are no irregularities in the field. But Parker, who wears a knee brace after partially tearing his ACL this summer, said it is easy to twist an ankle on the turf field because it is hard to get underneath the ball when kicking it.
The main complaint though, is that it gets hot. According to Strodtman, the temperature on the field can be as much as 15-20 degrees hotter than it is elsewhere. However, Strodtman said it will be nice come November, when the field would normally be hard and cold.
The coach of Rolla, Mike Howard, said his team has played on turf fields, though it does not have one at the high school. Howard said his team practiced on the school’s Bermuda grass field Thursday because it has a similar feel to artificial turf.
“With the newer turf it is obviously more like grass, so there’s not much of a difference,” Howard said. “It is a great surface to play on. The ball is going to roll true, obviously, because it is a perfect surface.”