Legends Stadium kicks off its home games with a crosstown soccer match Thursday after the recent completion of a $972,094 field renovation.
Flathead versus Glacier boys soccer teams will play at 4 p.m. and the girls soccer game begins at 8 p.m. on Sept 14.
The first varsity football home game at Legends is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 where Flathead will compete against Missoula Sentinel.
The renovation project is the first major improvement of field conditions since 2000.
“We are extremely excited and thankful that Legends Stadium’s field is now complete,” Glacier High School Activities Director Mark Dennehy said.
There was a slight delay in construction, which pushed back an August completion date to September and resulted in the relocation of a few football home games.
The biggest change in the field was the replacement of natural grass to synthetic turf. Legends joins Class AA schools in Billings, Butte and Missoula that all play football and soccer on synthetic turf. Great Falls High School also recently completed its installation of a synthetic turf field at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s something Kalispell can be proud of for the next foreseeable future,” Flathead High School Athletic Director Bryce Wilson said.
“It’s just a consistent surface,” Wilson said. “Every step is the same.”
Consistency was key in getting the field resurfaced while mitigating drainage issues that caused unevenness, muddiness and unsafe conditions. A severe crown in the middle of the field that also impacted playability has been addressed to Wilson’s elation.
“There’s just a small crown [now] for drainage. You don’t hardly notice it,” Wilson said, who estimated there was a 3-foot drop from the 50-yard line to the back of each end zone.
The synthetic turf field, which has a crumb rubber infill — basically recycled tires — was described as “spongier” compared to the former natural grass field.
“It’s going to take a bit of getting used to,” Wilson said.
The soccer teams will practice on the field today “to get a feel for the speed and bounce of the surface,” Dennehy said.
Routine maintenance will include using a sweeper to redistribute infill that may migrate during play, according to Wilson.
Overall, the decision to install synthetic turf had support of staff and community members, while a few people who responded to a survey put out by Kalispell Public Schools were concerned about potential adverse health effects related to the synthetic materials.
Public use of the facilities will need to be reviewed, according to Kalispell Superintendent Mark Flatau.
“We will be evaluating our open facility policy on Legends due to the large investment the community has provided this facility and the need to provide higher levels of security,” Flatau said. “No decisions have been made on this issue. We will be bringing some recommendations to the board in the near future regarding access and rental fees.”
Other improvements to the stadium include an updated officials’ locker room, bleacher expansion and relocation of pole-vault runways and the shot put area.
Legends Stadium is a portion of a $28.8 million high school district bond issue that includes renovating or expanding Flathead High School, H.E. Robinson Agricultural Center and Linderman Education Center. Glacier High School is slated for deferred maintenance improvements only.
“We feel very fortunate our community not only supports Legends, but the whole bond. It puts kids first,” Wilson said.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.