Kodiak High School’s football team finally has a home.
Since the first year of football in 2002, the team has practiced all over the island.
From the patch of grass by Fuller’s Boat Yard to Peterson Elementary and from Woody Way Field to Nemetz Gazebo, Kodiak has made due with whatever playable surface it could find.
The days of hunting for a practice field are over as artificial turf has replaced the muddy mess that was Joe Floyd Track and Field.
The green turf lets Kodiak practice on its home field every day, as opposed to once a week when the playing surface was natural grass.
“A month ago we were out at Nemetz practicing on any patch of grass we could find. And now we are on one of the best fields in the country,” Kodiak coach Jim Schnick said. “This is a high-caliber, college-type of field or an NFL practice facility-quality field.”
Kodiak’s been practicing on its new turf since Aug. 30, and the players still can’t believe their eyes. The first game on the field is 2 p.m. Saturday against Soldotna.
“If I wasn’t from Kodiak and came here, and they told me this used to be mud, I wouldn’t believe it,” senior Darren Aitolu said.
Aitolu said the first practice on the field was a moment he had been waiting for since construction began in May. Artificial turf has been a goal for more than eight years, but it finally seemed close when the state allocated money for the project in 2011. The Kodiak Island Borough and the City of Kodiak also contributed to the multimillion-dollar renovation.
“The intensity was top notch. Everybody was pumped up and ready to practice,” he said.
The proximity of the field to the high school makes it easier for players to get to practice.
“We have more time to lift and do more stuff now,” Aitolu said. “We don’t have to worry about getting a ride to Nemetz. You can just walk down here with your team bags and gear.”
Senior Eddy Burris raved about how good the turf felt on his feet.
“It is really comfortable and easy on the feet,” he said. “It is really soft. It is easier to grip on and you don’t slide around in the dirt or mud.”
Senior lineman Jingo Oleas echoed the same sentiments.
“It feels way better because it is lighter, and my cleats are clean — I don’t have to wash my stuff as often,” he said.
When it rained on game days, Joe Floyd Track and Field was known as a mud pit. The mud made it difficult for players to keep their footing.
“It will be easy for running backs to cut, instead of the mud, which was so hard to cut,” Oleas said.
Schnick said the turf will be safer to play on.
“It is going to be a fast field and a lot safer, which is a big plus,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about stepping in a mud puddle and rolling an ankle.”
Kodiak Parks and Recreation director Ian Fulp said the field is the only one in the state that has a brock pad, which underlies the surface and is designed to make the field safer.
“It also has probably the best drainage system of any field in the state,” Fulp said.
Fulp said Joe Floyd Track and track will open to the public after Saturday’s game.
The baseball field, which also has a new artificial turf infield, will remain closed to allow new grass to grow in outfield areas that were excavated for construction.
The football field also came with soccer goals and sleeves for volleyball poles in the west D-zone.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.