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Valley excited about new playing surface

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008

Valley's football team couldn't ask for a better opening night scenario.

A sleek, new artificial grass playing surface.

A promising team.

Defending Allegheny Conference champion Ford City coming to town.

"It's Friday night lights, it's opening night; this is everyone's dream," Valley senior running back/linebacker Bryan Hetrick said. "I can hardly wait to come out of that tunnel."

New-look Memorial Stadium will soon be ready for the fall sports season and the Aug. 29 football opener. Lines have been painted on the new Sprinturf surface, which was part of a near $600,000 stadium renovation project.

The turf covers a 500-ton cement base. In the next few days, small, rubberized pieces will be sprinkled onto the turf to soften it.

A 35-yard practice area also will be finished soon, on the opponents' side. This is mainly for blocking sleds used during practice.

"The field is beyond what I thought it could be," Valley athletic director Frank Campbell said. "I can see us hosting WPIAL playoff games this year. If we don't, something's wrong."

Soon, the team's logo and name will be stamped onto midfield and "Valley" and "Vikings" will be stitched into the end zones.

"There's a lot of excitement in the community," Valley coach Troy Hill said. "There are still people who like the old grass field, but I think we have something special here. It will be one of the best fields in the WPIAL."

The field has been widened to also accommodate soccer, and the proximity of fans to the sidelines will bring them closer to both football and soccer games.

"Like anything, we're waiting for all of the pieces to go into place," Hill said. "We're waiting for them to arrive, whether it's by UPS, Fed-Ex, whatever. It's going to be great."

The stadium also has new goal posts and will have new lights installed soon. There will be four light standards instead of six.

The stadium is the big talk around the Valley campus, but the football team has plenty of work to do in the coming weeks.

Camp opens Aug. 11. Valley will spend the first week at St. Joseph Center near Greensburg.

The team is looking forward to practicing on the field. It had some summer workouts on the soccer field, which is a unique setting for a football practice since it's right along Route 366 and is out in the open.

"Honestly, we hate it," Hill said. "But we're being patient. We know a lot of people want to get on (the turf). It's all part of the process."

Valley used to practice behind the football stadium, in the baseball outfield. But a fence has been put up, improving the baseball field greatly but taking away space.

"It's just that with (the soccer field), anyone can scout us," Hill said. "And with people walking around the track, it's hard to be ourselves. And there are no bathroom facilities. We know we won't be here forever, though."

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