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Work begins on $2.2M turf project in Jim Thorpe

In a few weeks the natural grass field at Jim Thorpe’s Olympian Stadium will be no more.

Work is underway on a $2.2 million project to install a new turf field to replace the grass which produced several memorable “mud bowl” football games.

“We’ve now addressed a 20-year problem in Jim Thorpe. Water’s not going to be sitting on the field,” said school board member TJ Garritano.

Crews are working five days a week on the project, and are expected to be finished by the end of September.

The first phase involves removing the goal posts, high jump and long jump pits, and topsoil from the stadium. After that, excavation will begin for a large underground drainage system which will sit underneath the new field, and 850 truckloads of dirt will be removed from the site.

The drainage system will consist of a series of pipes which drain water into an underground detention basin. It will take about 400 truckloads of rock to fill the underground basin.

The artificial turf itself has an expected life span of 10-12 years. The drainage system, which made up the bulk of the project’s cost, is designed to last much longer.

“From a safety standpoint synthetic turf is way more controllable and gives your athletes a fun safe environment to perform at their highest level of capability,” said Russell Lyddane, partner with Keystone Sports Construction, the designer and contractor for the project.

The corporate sponsor for the project is Lehigh Valley Health Network, which agreed to provide $650,000 and a wide range of athletic training and medical services in exchange for the sponsorship rights.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed by the start of the school year. But delays related to COVID-19 and permits pushed back the completion date. The drainage system had to be redesigned to handle more water than originally anticipated.

Last month the school board voted to add electrical work and new LED stadium lights to the project, which increased the cost by about $400,000.

The Jim Thorpe Olympians football team’s first scheduled home game is Aug. 28 versus Blue Mountain. That game, as well as scheduled home games against North Schuylkill and Notre Dame Green Pond, have been rescheduled as away games.

The Olympians’ other two scheduled home games are Oct. 9 against Northern Lehigh, and Oct. 16 against Tamaqua.

The field will also be used by the school’s boys and girls soccer teams, youth sports teams, and other Jim Thorpe Area High School students.

“You have amazing athletics programs, and now you’ll have an amazing athletic facility to represent them at,” Lyddane said.

Workers begin work on tearing out the natural grass to make way for an artificial turf field at Jim Thorpe High School's stadium. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS