Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant High to get synthetic football field

JSM Services employees, from left, Alan Rodriguez and Trevor Santos smooth the ground while Jimmy Stamps uses a surveying laser to check the elevation to prepare for a synthetic field at Plant High’s Dad’s Stadium last week. Private boosters raised $600,000 for the high-tech monofilament that feels real and “skin friendly.” The Panthers play their first game on the field Sept. 10.


JSM Services employees, from left, Alan Rodriguez and Trevor Santos smooth the ground while Jimmy Stamps uses a surveying laser to check the elevation to prepare for a synthetic field at Plant High’s Dad’s Stadium last week. Private boosters raised $600,000 for the high-tech monofilament that feels real and “skin friendly.” The Panthers play their first game on the field Sept. 10.


When the ball is kicked off on Sept. 10, the Plant Panthers will race down a football field designed or installed by companies that worked on the playing surfaces of the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and the universities of Colorado and Oklahoma State.

Giving a public school such luxurious carpet might seem like handing a kid with a driver's permit the keys to a Ferrari 599 GTB.

But Plant isn't the stereotypical public high school program with a shoestring budget and hand-me-down uniforms. It's a state powerhouse program that, last season, won its third state football title in four years. It has a devoted, wealthy and politically connected following of alumni and fans ensconced in well-to-do South Tampa.

They were behind an exclusively private fundraising effort that raised $600,000 for Plant High's Dad's Stadium, which is currently being fitted with a synthetic field from Desso Sports Systems, a worldwide company that has designed surfaces for World Cup stadiums and NFL franchises.

Known as the "D-Vision" line of turf, Plant's new surface is not the spiky, green stuff of welcome mats or the yarnlike shag carpeting of the '70s. It's high-tech monofilament that feels real and "skin friendly" for slides and tackles. The D-Vision line was designed with the help of the University of Ghent and the Flemish government of Belgium, according to the company's website.

Plant defensive backs coach Bo Puckett maintains that the new field isn't a luxury but a necessity that benefits the entire student body.

"Not only did we establish an athletic need for it but there's an academic benefit also," Puckett said, noting that physical education classes and kickball squads will use the field.

The school band and soccer and girls flag football teams will grace the turf, too. Corralled by houses and businesses that line busy Dale Mabry Highway, the school has limited field space and no practice fields.

Frequent foot traffic combined with Florida's rapid, repeated rains often turned the stadium's former grass field into a Woodstock mud pit.

Besides ankle twists and knee injuries from slipping and sliding, the muddy conditions posed another health risk. In 2007, seven athletes and Puckett came down with ringworm, Puckett said.

"It was getting downright dangerous," he said. "It was a huge need."

With the recession drying up public funds, Plant turned to alumni, fans and parents during a broad fundraising campaign.

"The key to get anything done in your community is to mobilize people for a great need," said Puckett, who also coaches girls flag football. "There was not just one person who made a difference in this situation."

Other well-endowed high school programs in other football-crazed regions such as South Florida and Texas have similar fields. In Tampa Bay, private Jesuit High School is the only other prep program with a similar surface.

Plant's field is being installed by 1st Turf, a 14-year-old Tampa company that plants grass and artificial turf fields across the nation, and is expected to be done sometime in August. It's a complex process that involves digging out Plant's former field 3 feet deep, leveling the surface, installing corrugated piping wrapped with felt, spreading a layer of gravel, turf and ground rubber to give the surface cushioning and bounce.

It's an investment that's worth it for Plant, 1st Turf president Mike McGraw said.

"We find that it's fairly common to spend between $40,000 and $70,000 a year to maintain a good (grass) field and try and keep it in good condition," he said. "You still reach a point if you overuse it, you have to resod it and let it recover and most schools don't have the time to do that."

The Panthers will play two away games before their first home game on the new field Sept. 10 against Hillsborough High School.

While the turf was technologically engineered to resemble and feel like the finest grass field, there is one drawback.

The temperature on synthetic fields averages between 10 and 15 degrees more than grass fields. Puckett said Plant will try and lower the temperature by spraying the field with water cannons on hot days.

But that can create more humidity, increasing what McGraw calls the "misery index" for players.

Which might be the only solace for rival high school football teams, green with envy.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

Plant High to get synthetic football field 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 4:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson Jenn Meale said Monday.

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  2. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late


    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.
  4. Florida concealed weapons permit holders exposed in computer hack


    More than 16,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida may have had their names accidently made public because of a data breach at the The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

  5. Editorial: Careless words unfit for a mayor


    Even his critics marvel at how well Bob Buckhorn has grown into the job since first being elected as Tampa's mayor in 2011. His grace in public and his knack for saying and doing the right things has reflected well on the city and bestowed civic pride in the mayor's office. That's why Buckhorn's cheap shot at the media …

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]