When the Oak Grove Warriors take the field in just a couple of weeks, they’ll be doing so on brand new turf. But they aren’t the only ones benefitting.
The new turf is the result of a $1.5 million Warrior Club Oak Grove Capital Improvement campaign that’s been five months in the making.
The Warrior Club, which serves as a booster organization for all Oak Grove athletics, has raised, committed/pledged or donated about half of the needed funds.
The money that has been committed allowed the Warrior Club to borrow the money to fund the stadium project prior to the start of the 2019 football season.
This campaign enabled the Warrior Club, an all-volunteer organization, to complete Phase 1, which will mean a safer field to play on, as well as multiple other uses. The old turf was 13 years old and only guaranteed for 10 years.
On March 7, Sean Little, who spoke on behalf of the Warrior Club and serves as the coordinator of the turf committee, presented the proposal to the Lamar County School Board and asked for its permission to move forward with the capital campaign.
The capital campaign is part of a multi-phase campaign which included the stadium as Phase 1, improvements to the baseball facility as Phase 2 and Phase 3 for track.
He said while tennis courts and other projects have been discussed they haven’t been put in a phase as of yet.
“Phase 3 is as far as we’ve gotten,” Little said.
“In five months we’ve been able to raise enough funds, either through donations or pledges, so we could borrow the money to complete the project ahead of football season. Five months is a very short period of time for that amount of money. It would not have been possible without corporate donations; just simply would not have happened.”
Little read off a list of corporate sponsors which included the Warrior Club itself, although not a corporate entity – financial and medical institutions, small businesses, eateries, convenience stores, the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, industries, and many others in addition to multiple individuals and family donations that were cash and lowered the amount of money that had to be borrowed.
Little lauded Oak Grove High School football coach Drew Causey for the role he played in fundraising.
“He did an unbelievable job,” Little said. “I do want that to go on public record. He did a phenomenal job. Each of us can go ask a business for money and maybe (we’ll get it), but when the coach comes and asks; he did a champion job.”
Also reaping the benefits of the project is the facility known as Building 2, adjacent to the field house.
Little noted the indoor practice facility housed in that structure had been concrete. “Through this project, that facility also has the same turf that’s on the field,” Little said.
“Originally the Warrior Club has planned on repurposing the old turf in that facility, but after some thought, questioned why you would put 13-year-old turf that’s been exposed to weather and everything else that a football field is subject to throughout the year indoors for stuff to grow.
“So, we worked it out and have brand new turf and don’t have to worry about all the bad things that come with old stuff.”
However, the old turf was able to be repurposed for several projects.
Little noted that on the OGHS stadium visitors’ side, an offensive lineman section has been fitted with the old turf, which will take relief off the field where sleds, tires and other heavy equipment is being pushed around.
“That will help alleviate wear and tear on the field,” Little explained.
Turf was also used for the OGHS baseball bullpen and the softball field batting cage.
Oak Grove’s Optimist Park was also the beneficiary of some of the turf which was used in the batting cage there and Lamar Christian, a private school in Purvis, received turf for its bullpen and batting cage.
“It’s really good to see the benefits that came from all different directions, and some of the negotiations and relationships that were built during this process,” Little said.
Little also pointed out the work that board attorney Rick Norton has provided as far as guidance and contractural matters as well as that of engineer Hunter Andrews for his oversight, planning and supervision of the project to make sure the turf was installed properly with no problems.
On Monday, Little asked for the board’s permission to proceed with Phase II of the capital campaign which would fund turf being installed on the OGHS baseball field, as well as other projects.
Little said the Warrior Club was in the process of reviewing the Phase II bids, which had come in a little higher than they had hoped for.
“That just means we’ll have to sharpen our pencils and try and figure something else out,” he said. “The bid is a complicated process with about seven different parts to it, so we’ve got to make decisions on what’s going to best benefit and achieve the most.”
But the fundraising isn’t over.
“In order to reach big numbers fast we targeted corporate donors first,” Little said. Now the campaign will turn to others in the Oak Grove community, individuals and alums. Little said a social media fundraising campaign will kick off during the Warriors’ first game of the season on Aug. 30 and continue through Homecoming.
A website is currently being designed for the Warrior Club where the Oak Grove community, can give back or contribute to the campaign. He said there would also be other fundraisers, brick sales and the like, in order to raise the necessary funds.
The Warrior Club is approaching its deadline to make anything in the next phase happen by spring, so the continued effort is necessary.
“It’s a very lofty goal, but if we didn’t set it, we wouldn’t achieve it,” Little said.