This past week the Somerset Independent School Board awarded the bid to Branscum Construction for installing artificial turf on the William Clark Football football field. It will be the first football field in the local area to replace out their old gridiron grass surface with the more modern and user-friendly artificial turf.

Since Clark Feld was built nearly 45 years ago, the athletic field - located on the campus of Somerset's Meece Middle School - is comparable to any of the best high school athletic complexes in the state of Kentucky. With an estimated seating capacity of 7,000 fans, Clark Field has stood the test of time for nearly half a century. And thanks to the foresight of the Somerset administration, Clark Field looks as pristine now as it did when it was first used in the mid 1970's.

And now with a new bright-colored artificial turf surface, Clark Field now finds its way into the 21st century. Where high school grass football fields were the norm in the mid 70's, artificial grass surfaces are now becoming the new norm all over the state.

Once you get past the initial costs of turfing a football field with the green synthetic fibers, the pros far outweigh the cons. There is minimal maintenances of the artificial surfaces, such as no mowing, no watering, and no worries of losing the field to drought, heavy traffic or grass diseases. Plus multiple sports and school activities can be performed on the artificial grass surfaces with out the fear of wearing down the grass with heavy use.

When the Briar Jumpers take to the football field this fall, the new turf is just one of the many upgrades made to the football complex over the past several years.

New black chain-link fencing was put around the entire football complex. A new radio remote-control scoreboard was installed at Clark Stadium. Clark Field was equipped with new state-of-the-art lighting. Somerset also built a new Bricked stadium entrance ticket booth and a lavish iron gate entrance to the historic stadium. Also, Somerset made renovations to their football press box and bleacher kick plates. Last year, the Briar Jumpers sported school-colored sideline field covers.

As a matter of fact, Somerset superintendent Kyle Lively and the school board have made noticeable upgrades to all of the Briar Jumpers' athletic facilities over a short span.

They added new black chain-link fencing around the softball, baseball, football and soccer fields. The baseball, softball, soccer and football venues all got new radio remote controlled scoreboards.

The Somerset soccer field is getting a new bricked ticket both entrance, which includes restrooms and concession. The soccer teams are getting a new bricked fieldhouse, located at east end of the field. The Briar Jumper soccer teams have enjoyed their sideline covered dugouts for the past several seasons.

The Charlie Taylor baseball complex has got it's share of upgrades as well, including new backstop netting, a left-field outdoor hitting canopy, and a new indoor hitting facility (replacing the old one, which was destroyed by fire).

The softball and volleyball teams got new locker rooms, and the cheerleaders got new tumbling matts.

And on top of all the above listed athletic upgrades, the Somerset School system purchased the old 'once city-owned' YMCA building, which features an additional basketball gym, a weight and exercise room and many other rooms the schools can utilize. And renovation of the swimming pool will begin in May, which will put Somerset Schools in an elite group of schools having their own pool for use by their swim team.

We would like to commend the Somerset Independent Schools for their visionary thinking, planning and execution of upgrading their athletic facilities over the past few years.

THE COMMONWEALTH JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD consists of Michael McCleery, Publisher; Jeff Neal, Editor; Steve Cornelius, Sports Editor; Bill Mardis, Editor Emeritus; Mary Ann Flynn, Advertising; and Chris Harris, Staff Writer.

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