BRADENTON -- Work on Saint Stephen's athletic facility began in late April.
Only recently, however, did it hit Carlos Boothby that the school's dream was fast becoming a reality.
That's when Willis A. Smith Construction Inc., the company working on the school's $4.5 million project, began laying the synthetic turf inside the new stadium that will soon be home to football, soccer and boys lacrosse teams.
"That's when I thought, 'Now it's real,'" Boothby, Saint Stephen's athletic director, said Monday afternoon while overlooking the turf.
Turner Fields at Moore Athletic Complex should be completed by October. It will include a new stadium featuring lights, a scoreboard, a press box with a wireless hookup, bleachers that will seat more than 800 spectators, a public-address system and an eight-lane track.
Also included in the project:
New baseball and softball fields, along with home and away dugouts and bullpens, three new batting cages and new scoreboards.
A fieldhouse with boys and girls locker rooms, coaches offices, a weight room and training room
Concession stand with a three-sided serving area, and men's and women's restrooms.
"We thought about it for awhile and were getting ready to start the capital campaign, and that's when the economy really took a dive," Boothby said. "And we had just built the middle school, and they didn't really want to go out and start asking people for more money."
The Moore family, whose children attend Saint Stephen's and recently had a child graduate from the school, gave Saint Stephen's a $2 million gift. The other $2.5 million was raised through a capital campaign that ran from last August through December.
"It was really mostly families from here. The generosity is just humbling," Boothby said. "That means the people really care about what we're doing and the importance of elevating the facilities."
Despite the frequent thunderstorms that have battered the area, the project is on schedule, said Steve Arrington, project manager with Willis A. Smith, a Sarasota-based company which did the work on Out-of-Door Academy's athletic facility and built Saint Stephen's middle school.
"We've been able to work around it. Guys have picked up a Saturday here and there," Arrington said amid Monday's sunshine. "And this site drains really well, so (the water) doesn't stay around too long. We've been very fortunate. It sure would be nice if we could get a couple more weeks of this."
Lining the stadium will be a synthetic turf made of a Monofilamet and Slit Film blend. "The research we did said for multi-sports ... that's really the best sur
face to play on," said Boothby, who checked out synthetic playing surfaces at schools such as Tampa Jesuit, Winter Haven All Saints and Lakeland Christian. "Knowing how busy this field will be, we realized (synthetic turf) would be the only option. It's obviously more expensive to put in initially, but for the life of the field, with paint and fertilizer and cutting it and watering it and everything you need to with a natural-grass field ... it's a wash."
Saint Stephen's and IMG Academy will feature the county's only synthetic playing surfaces.
Lines for football, soccer and lacrosse will be permanent, and Boothby said a school logo will be sewed onto the middle of the field.
The baseball and softball fields will feature natural glass. Those fields will not be lit because of their proximity to the houses located around the school, Boothby said.
But the stadium is already surrounded by four light poles equipped with seven lights each, meaning there will be no more 4 p.m. football games at Saint Stephen's.
"We want to make it an event," said Boothby, adding the football team will again play night games at Palma Sola Park while the project is being completed. "Playing games in August and September at 4 o'clock, you and I are just standing on the sidelines and we're dying. The poor kids with all their equipment, which is why we went over to Palma Sola."
Now, they'll get to play right on campus. The turf is on the ground, the fieldhouse is being constructed and conduit stands at the future site of the multi-purpose scoreboard.
As Bootbhy said, the project is real and on its way.
"It's obviously for Saint Stephen's, but we hope it's a community field, too," Boothby said. "It's going to be really nice."