Mike Marsh isn’t sure exactly how long it’s been, but he knows he’s wanted Bishop Stadium to have artificial turf for at least five years now.
While the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team opened their season weeks ago on the turf, tonight’s matchup with Emporia is the first chance for the football team to realize that dream.
The game will include an extended halftime, with time enough for school officials to hold a short ceremony recognizing the biggest contributors to the turf project at Bishop Stadium, which came with an $800,000 price tag.
“You’ve seen the progress come through of other schools able put down turf at their fields,” Marsh said. “It’s just been one of those things that’s been talked about for a long time, but it took an initiative from Mark Bachamp and Jason Hilgers to really get the ball rolling to go out and ask people from the community to help the school district out financially, and those people were willing to step forward and help us out and it’s greatly appreciated.”
MHS was the last school in Class 6A to overhaul its natural grass field. The lack of change was especially hard on the soccer teams, who play on turf most every away game but practiced and played home games on natural grass at Anneberg Park.
“It’s real important,” Marsh said. “It’s one of those things that’s been on our wish list over the years, and so it’s something we can mark off in terms of facilities. It gives a big advantage to our kids to be able to not only play games on it, but to practice as well. Most of the time our kids were practicing on natural grass and then we’d go play on artificial turf.”
Marsh said the game of soccer is especially difficult to switch between surfaces.
“The game of soccer is so much faster played on turf than natural grass because of the ball speed, so it gives our kids the chance to get used to it on a daily basis rather than practice for four or five days on grass and then go play on artificial turf,” Marsh said. “So it’s a big deal. It’s not only a big deal for our school, but also for our community. It allows us to practice out there and play games and do the things that schools that have all their facilities at one location do.”
Meanwhile, the football team is just as excited to get out and play on the new turf after starting its season on the road at Mill Valley a week ago. Manhattan head coach Joe Schartz said the team is excited to showcase the field Friday night as much of the community will get its first opportunity to see it.
“Any time we play out at Bishop, it’s special,” MHS head football coach Joe Schartz said. “We’ve had some time to get adjusted to the turf out there, but I think there will be a lot of community members at the home game for the first time to take a look at Bishop Stadium, so it’s an exciting evening for the entire community.”
As for the matchup against Emporia, the Indians will have their hands full against a Spartans team that beat Shawnee Heights 44-0 last week to start the season. Emporia was the team that ended Manhattan’s streak of 28 straight regular-season victories, so the motivation is there.
“They’re excited about the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd at Bishop Stadium,” Schartz said. “The fact that it’s a quality opponent only adds fuel to the fire. I expect the kids to be ready to go and win, lose or draw, they’re going to fight really hard.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bishop Stadium. Those that can’t attend can find a webcast of the game on The Mercury’s website, www.themercury.com.