By Gene Phelps
Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell is on vacation this week, but he’s not getting much rest and relaxation.
Mitchell’s thoughts are centered around worries that his Yellow Jackets may not play a home game this season.
The installation of artificial turf at the SHS football stadium has been halted because of a problem with rainwater compromising the surface’s pre-turf base.
While the school district and the contractor work to remedy the situation, the countdown continues toward the Jackets’ scheduled Aug. 22 season opener, at home against Noxubee County.
“I’m concerned we won’t have a stadium this year,” Mitchell said on Thursday. “I can’t tell you how miserable I am.
“We’ve got a team poised to make a great run and looking down the barrel of not having a place to play. It’s disappointing.”
The school district learned of the problem two weeks ago. The contract called for the $1.4 million project to be completed by July 15. An extension was given to the general contractor – Clear River Construction – until July 21, Starkville superintendent of schools, Dr. Lewis Holloway said. The subcontractor for the turf installation itself, Shaw Sports Turf, is not involved with the delay.
“They had the soil compaction done May 21,” he said. “We don’t think they worked fast enough to get the job done. We think they caused this. It met the engineer’s specifications on May 21.”
The contractor wants an additional $177,000 to repair the soil damage so the artificial turf can be installed. The school district stands behind its contract and doesn’t want to pay the additional costs.
“The engineering report supports our position,” Holloway said.
Mitchell said he will meet Monday with school officials to begin looking at alternative sites for its six home football games. East Mississippi Community College, an hour’s drive from Starkville, has an artificial turf field.
“We need to see what options are out there,” Mitchell said. “I would hate to speculate where we would play. We’ve got to look at this short term and long term … and plan for the worst.”