Now it's getting recognition on a national level.
Head football coach Mark Mariakis was recently notified that the field was selected as a national finalist in the athletic fields category of the Synthetic Turf Council’s (STC) 2011 Search for the Real Field of Dreams contest.
Ridgeland's field had been a major problem in recent years, including in 2009 when large amounts of rainfall left the grass surface unplayable on several occasions, forcing the Panthers to move a home playoff game to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga and keeping the Ridgeland soccer team off the field for an entire season.
But that all changed last fall when Dalton-based AstroTurf installed a new artificial playing surface at the school. Ridgeland's story made a big impression on the STC contest judges, who named the field as a national finalist.
“Our contest recognizes synthetic turf athletic fields, parks and playgrounds in the U.S. and Canada that have made an exceptional impact on their local communities,” said Rick Doyle, President of the STC. “Overcoming numerous obstacles, Ridgeland High School won another region championship and allowed more players to receive college scholarships following the installation of their synthetic turf field.”
Based in Atlanta, the STC was founded in 2003 to promote the industry and to assist buyers and end users with the selection, use and maintenance of synthetic turf systems in sports field, golf, municipal parks, airports, landscape and residential applications.
"This is really big for us," said Mariakis. "To know we've been selected in the Top 10 of the nation kind of blows your mind, but when we went with the folks at AstroTurf, we knew we were getting something really good. I just want to thank (Walker County Schools Superintendent) Melissa Mathis and the school board for helping us get the field. It's been something really good for the students and the community."
Notre Dame Academy, an all-girls school in Park Hills, Kentucky, was the top winner in the athletic fields category while Van Horn High School in Independence, Missouri was a grand prize winner.