It began in 2003, when McEachern athletic director and then-football coach Jimmy Dorsey persuaded his administration to invest $1.2 million from the school's private endowment for a stadium field and a practice field.
“Certainly when I presented the concept to our school and Trust Fund administration they looked at me with an expression of, ‘Are you crazy?’ ” Dorsey said. "But if this proved successful, I felt convinced it would become the future in high school facilities.’
Dorsey was proven a prophet. The first sign that his instincts were correct came the next season, when Valdosta put artificial grass on Wright-Bazemore Stadium, the most storied high school stadium in the state.
About the same time, Fulton County schools began making the switch for all of its schools and used money from a local-options sales tax to fund it. Forsyth (2008), Cobb (2010) and Clayton (2010) counties soon would follow suit. Prominent single-school districts and private schools such as St. Pius (2004), Camden County (2007), Carrollton (2008), Lowndes (2008), Marist (2008) and Calhoun (2009) joined in.
Since 2010, there’s been no turning back.The last bastion of natural grass in metro Atlanta — Gwinnett County — is finally coming on board. Duluth and South Gwinnett are the first in the state’s largest school system to turn to artificial turf this fall. The other 17 have signed up to follow gradually.
“All in all, it’s still a great option for schools because it opens that facility up for much more use by many more groups than natural grass,” Dorsey said. “In high schools with so many programs in addition to athletics needing field space such as bands, physical education classes, graduations and other events, it just makes sense.”
Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.