Dunlap's Football Field of Dreams

By Marc Strauss

August 11, 2011 Updated Aug 11, 2011 at 10:36 PM CDT

There's a new star at Dunlap High School. The playing surface.

When the Eagles take the field for home games this season it will be on field turf, not grass. Studies show it's more forgiving and requires lower maintenance.

"We all feel it in our calves and hamstrings because of the cushion. Its definitely a softer playing surface than natural grass," said Dunlap football coach Brett Cazalet.

But Eagles lineman Adam Olson says there's also a down side to playing on synthetic turf.

"My shoes are ripping because of all the cuts we're making on the field. And I have a few burns on my knees and elbows," said Olson.

Dunlap's new field turf is the same surface they have at the University of Illinois and at Illinois State University. The blades of grass are plastic. And the cushion effect is created by tiny black granules that are made from ground up old rubber tires.

"I think there's in excess of 200,000 pounds of crumb rubber out here," said Dunlap Athletic Director Duane Peterson. "It smells like tires a little bit right now but that will all work its way into the turf at some point."

Dunlap is one of only a handful of downstate schools that has field turf. It cost the district $600,000 to buy and install. But you don't have to mow it or feed it. And Peterson says in time the investment will be offset by less maintenance and more versatility.

"We'll be able to use it for a lot of different events. Not only football, but band, our soccer team is going to be up here for a season or a season-and-a-half while their field grows in. It gives us an opportunity for our P-E classes to come out here on a daily basis and use it."

The school is also in the process of building a 9-court tennis complex, new softball and soccer fields, and a ring road for better access.