BELLVILLE -- The Colt Corral no longer sports a natural grass field. But that doesn't mean Clear Fork's sports teams plan to stop chewing up the opposition.
Workers began laying the new green artificial surface on the stadium field this week. The running track will also soon be resurfaced, according to Chris Laux, who chairs the committee for stadium improvements.
Despite work being delayed by rain this spring/summer, the facility should be good to go by the time Laux's girls soccer team hosts its home opener on Aug. 19.
Extensive preparation on the project began this spring after a year-long, private fundraising campaign generated more than $1 million in cash donations, pledges and in-kind donations, more than necessary to do the work.
"This is something that was first talked about seven or eight years ago," Laux said. "We went and looked at some other turf fields around the state. But nothing happened."
During a Clear Fork Athletic Boosters meeting a couple of years ago, the topic was broached again.
"I said, 'Let's do this,' " Laux said.
He had run capital campaigns in the past for his church and volunteered to take the lead on the effort.
"I knew we had some people in the valley (residents and businesses) who would step up," he said. "We talked to them first and got their commitment (cash and in-kind) and then we went public with it."
In July 2018, at the fall sports' meeting, the boosters and Clear Fork Athletic Department announced the collaborative effort that would create a surface that will be used by a litany of Colts' teams -- including football (high school, junior high and Pony League), soccer (boys and girls of all ages), marching band practice, gym classes (high school and junior high), and even high school graduations.
Laux said people were permitted to make pledges to contribute over a five-year period. He said First-Knox National Bank's branch in Bellville provided a loan based upon the commitments.
"We hope to have it paid off before the five years," Laux said.
The new surface is in keeping with other area schools that have added turf in recent years, including Madison, Mansfield Senior, Ashland, Highland, Mount Vernon, Wooster and Marion Harding.
It also comes at a time of great success for Clear Fork athletic programs. The football team has posted back-to-back 10-0 regular seasons, winning two Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference titles and advancing to the regional finals last year.
The girls' soccer program has a long history of success and is usually one of the best teams in the area.
It will also give Clear Fork an opportunity to perhaps host postseason football and soccer games in the future.