Gabriel Richard Catholic High School in Riverview announced it will begin construction of a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art synthetic turf athletic field this spring. The field, slated for completion by next year’s fall athletic season, will make Gabriel Richard the only high school worldwide to have a burgundy turf field.
“We wanted something exceptional and unique,” Athletic Director Kris Daiek said of the field’s color. “There is no question that this will be one of the most exclusive fields in the country, not only from the performance of the field, but in the presentation, as well.”
According to Joseph Whalen, principal at Gabriel Richard, the school’s current field has suffered considerable wear and tear over the years, necessitating costly repairs and renovations. While the addition of the turf field will have a greater cost initially, it will be provide a more-permanent solution to the problem of overuse of the field. He also cited reduced maintenance costs and the ability to use synthetic turf in all types of weather as part of the school’s decision.
“This field will immediately improve the safety and the experience of our student-athletes and will give a huge boost to our entire GR community,” Whalen said. “We’re really excited about this huge step forward.”
Daiek said the school envisions more than just a turf field, but rather a multi-use athletic facility that will serve not only as a football field, but a soccer and lacrosse field as well.
“With artificial turf, we can now go forth with plans to add a boys’ lacrosse team in the spring of 2016,” Daiek said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from current and prospective students to form a team, but our current field would never have accommodated it.”
Daiek also said that the new field will benefit Gabriel Richard’s summer camp programs and the larger community, including Christian Youth Organization (CYO) programs.
“This field will not just be home for our own students, but for many throughout the Downriver area,” he said. “Local CYO programs including John Paul II have already inquired about renting our field for their soccer and football programs.”
“This is a great opportunity to be able to partner with schools throughout the area. Strengthening Catholic educational athletics at every level was one of our goals. We think this will help.”
While the official announcement of the field brought much excitement to the GR community this week, seniors who will graduate before the field is complete were also melancholy.
“I told our graduating seniors that they are the ones who helped build this field. Their classmates will benefit from their sacrifice. I’m not sure that eased the pain, though,” Daiek laughed.
Senior Tyler Blaszczak, a 4-year football standout for the Pioneers, said he’s happy for the school and his teammates, but disappointed he won’t get to spend a season on the new field.
“It would have been really sweet to play on the turf,” Blaszczak said.
Daiek said he plans to invite Blaszczak and others back to the school to try out the new field next fall. He said the school is tossing around ideas, including a flag football tournament, that will give alumni an opportunity to experience playing on the burgundy turf.
Like many Catholic schools, enrollment at Gabriel Richard has declined over the past decade, but Whalen said that news of the field and the school’s recent implementation of 1:1 technology has definitely piqued interest and the school anticipates an increase in enrollment this fall.
“Over the past two years, we have really invested in the school,” Whalen said. “This past summer, we installed wireless Internet throughout our building and gave each of our students a free Chromebook to enhance learning opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. We added an academic learning center to help all students achieve success, and this spring, we’ll launch a capital campaign to coincide with our 50th anniversary to ensure that we continue our momentum.”
The multi-purpose field will make its official debut in August when the Pioneer Soccer team will open the 2015 season. The football team opens the 2015 season against Harper Woods High School on August 28th.