Wheeling Island Stadium Turf a Muddy Issue for Ohio County Board of Education

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller, left, business manager Steven Bieniek and Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones study financial data prior to the start of a prior board of education meeting. Photo by Joselyn King

WHEELING — Keeping the turf clean at Wheeling Island Stadium is a muddy issue for Ohio County Schools as the West Virginia Super Six high school football championships return to Wheeling this month.

The field has been covered by flood water twice in the past year, and with the excessively wet weather in recent months it isn’t drying out. School employees have been working to keep the field clean and disinfected per the recommendations of the turf’s manufacturer, according to maintenance director Brian Harto. Still, when the Wheeling Park High School Patriots and their opponents take the field, mud rises to the surface.

Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones told the board of education Tuesday night he is working with Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration of Wheeling to get the field as clean as possible before the Super Six championships start on Nov. 30, but he remained skeptical.

“They are going to give us a couple of proposals of what they think they can maybe do to get it in as good of shape as possible for the Super Six,” he said. “No matter what they do, as soon as people come on the field it is getting muddy.”

Board member David Croft suggested the city of Wheeling might want to contribute to the costs of the cleaning, as the Super Six provides a major revenue boost for the city. The Ohio County Commission already provides funding to the Super Six.

Croft expressed concerns about bacteria and safety on the field, and he asked if officials with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department had done any testing on it. Harto said the field employees test for bacteria each week.

Croft also said he fears if the field looks less than stellar for the Super Six, this could hinder chances of keeping the tournament in Wheeling. The current five-year contract with the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission expires after the 2019 Super Six.

“As far as the Super Six goes, they played in six inches of mud. They will be back,” board member Christine Carder said. “It’s not a big deal.”

Croft said he hoped Carder was right.

“I don’t share your optimism,” Croft said. “There are other markets that would love the chance to take it from us, and I don’t want to give them that opportunity.”

The current turf at Wheeling Island was installed there in 2015 at a cost of $355,255. Last year, the stadium saw another $407,000 worth of structural improvements after some concrete panels at the top of the stadium cracked.

Superintendent Kim Miller and board president Zach Abraham acknowledged the age and cost of maintaining the stadium has them wondering if it’s time to consider another location for the stadium. Some “inquiries have been sent out” to determine some possibilities for a new stadium, but there has been no formal movement on the issue, Abraham said.

“It could be the financially responsible thing to do,” Miller said.

In other matters before the board, the American Electric Power Foundation has awarded Woodsdale Elementary School’s playground committee a $15,000 grant to help construct an outdoor classroom. Joelle Moray, AEP external affairs manager, was present at the board meeting to present an oversized check to principal Ashlea Minch, and members of the school’s playground committee.

Ohio County Schools students winning recognition in the West Virginia Bus Safety Poster Contest also were recognized. Those present to be honored included Julie Brammer, a second grade student at Steenrod Elementary School; Zalea Lane, a sixth grade student at Wheeling Middle School; and Baylie Hinebaugh, a fifth grade student at Woodsdale Elementary School.

Board member Sarah Koegler was not present at Tuesday’s meeting. Attending were Abraham, Carder, Croft and Molly Aderholt.

The next regular meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the board office, 2203 National Road.