By Greg Gielczyk

LUDINGTON–Change is happening at Ludington schools, as taxpayer dollars are being put to good use.

For some, the most notable difference will be in the athletic department, however the student/athletes will not be the only members of the academic community to benefit from the renovations.

People driving by Oriole Field in Ludington have no doubt noticed the grass has been torn up and removed, making way for the new artificial surface that is expected to be installed and completed by the end of the summer.

Photo/Joe Washington

Back in 2019, the Ludington community passed a $100 million bond issue, and part of it was to install a new, artificial playing surface for Oriole Field. The company AstroTurf won the bidding process and work has begun. 

Spring sports also will benefit from the new surface. When their grass fields are unplayable, they’ll be able to practice on the new football field.

“It’s going to help all student athletes and the community,” said LHS athletic director Greg Pscodna. “They’ll have youth football games on there, they’ll have youth soccer games on there.

“(Now) it’s just a matter of us getting it in, and hopefully sometime in August, we’ll be able to use it, and play on it.”

Unfortunately, the process didn’t begin until after the girls soccer season and the Orioles had to play on the old grass field, which was an ugly brown rather than lush green by season’s end.

As Pscodna said, it’s hard to grow grass over the winter. But the artificial surface will always be green and not affected by any long dry spells.

“Next year will be full-go,” Pscodna said. “Tentatively our first home soccer game is Wednesday, Aug. 16, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that everything goes well between now and then. That’ll be the first game on it.”

But, the football field is not the only renovation scheduled.

The dugouts were expanded at the softball diamond, a new scoreboard installed and the infield resurfaced.

A year from now, work will start on the baseball field with the refurbishing of the infield, moving home plate back and putting up a permanent outfield fence.

“We can take care of all the drainage problems, and everything like that,” Pscodna said. “It’ll look a lot different down there at Oriole Field. And we’re also redoing Hawley Gymnasium this summer.  We’re repainting it and getting in new bleachers. Putting in new windows and air conditioning.

“That’ll look a lot different also, probably in September sometime. That’ll get a complete makeover also. We’re excited about that, too.”

Oriole Field gets a lot of traffic with varsity and junior varsity football, boys and girls soccer and youth football. By the end of the year, it gets worn down.

Football coach Charlie Gunsell is glad that he’ll be able to stop using the baseball outfield for practice, which does damage to the field.

Photo/Joe Washington

“I think the biggest thing, from the program’s standpoint, is we’re going to practice on a really nice surface every single day,” Gunsell said. “Which, to me, is as big of a deal as your game night. I don’t really have a preference for playing on grass or turf on Friday nights, but to be able to go out to practice Monday through Thursday knowing the lines are going to be down and everything is going to be set and weather doesn’t play as big of a factor in your practice plans gives you more consistency.”

The soccer programs are excited about it as well.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a much faster surface than what we currently play on,” said soccer coach Kris Anderson. “When we hit the postseason, most of the games once you get out of district are usually played on turf anyway.

“It will kind of help you prepare for the postseason, and style of play. And quite a few of the schools now that sometimes play in our district also have turf.”

Ludington schools have not had significant improvements in decades.

But change has finally come.

Photo/Joe Washington