Butler High School installing new artificial turf baseball field

It’s only January, but Butler Traditional High School has baseball on its mind.

Work started Dec 28 to install an artificial turf infield at Butler’s baseball field and it’s expected to be done by the Bears’ season opener March 13. Coach Troy Frazier believes it’ll be a night the program won’t forget.

“The guys have been out to the field seeing the progress day-to-day and it’s been very exciting for them,” Frazier said. “I won’t be happy until it’s finished, but it’s been really cool to see the transformation and know what’s coming here in a few short weeks.”

Upgrading Butler’s facilities was one of Frazier’s first priorities when he accepted the job in July 2021.

Ballard, Eastern and Pleasure Ridge Park are three of the most successful baseball programs in the Jefferson County Public Schools system. They’re also the only three JCPS teams that play on artificial turf. All three were paid for by boosters and private donors.

“The biggest hurdle was financially because it is a very expensive project,” Frazier said.

In August, Frazier sent a project proposal to JCPS for a turf field. It wasn’t until December when the JCPS school board approved a donation total of $249,845.75 by the baseball booster club to install the turf. Although the project is underway, fundraising efforts are ongoing. The booster club is having its first event of the year, a trivia night, on Jan. 28.

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While Butler’s new field is an exciting addition for many in the Shively community, JCPS athletic director April Brooks hopes to see a day where updated equipment and facilities are commonplace throughout the district.

Brooks’ office is in charge of distributing funds throughout the district. In 2019, JCPS officials confirmed they are in “preliminary talks” about adding artificial turf at all 20 football stadiums.

“My No. 1 thing is that we have safe facilities for our student-athletes and spectators,” Brooks said. “And then we want to look at how can we use this at the middle school level or for our elementary kids.”

But she also knows there are limits to what some communities can provide.

“We don’t encourage [athletic directors] to go out and seek money, but sometimes there’s community partners that want to work with us,” Brooks said. “But for some schools, it’s really a barrier trying to find those resources.”

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Raising the funds

Working with the Butler Traditional High School Baseball Boosters, Frazier led the charge in hosting fundraising events. The booster club has averaged about two fundraising events per month since Frazier took over in July.

Parents and players played a big role. Angie Grissom has been a Butler baseball parent for the last five seasons and said the field’s been a problem for even longer.

“I would say over the last three years there’s been an effort to save as much as we could in preparation for if we ever did have the opportunity to get the field,” Grissom said. “When Coach Frazier came on board it became a mission.”

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Playing on grass not only requires more maintenance, but it also puts games at a higher risk of being canceled. Playing on summer travel ball teams, many players are also accustomed to playing on turf.

“This will be a good attraction for the South End,” Frazier said. “I feel like it’s really going to attract some players and students that want to come to Butler and be a part of a brand new facility.”

A vision for the district

The need for facility upgrades is a common theme throughout the city, and Brooks wants to add artificial turf fields at every JCPS school.

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“I get these tweets and what not that are like, ‘What are you doing?'” Brooks said. “But it’s not like I can just throw out a turf field like, ‘Here.’ I have to have a process to it.”

While Butler baseball turf project is funded by its booster club, other JCPS upgrades would have to be handled by the district budget.

Brooks’ process includes hiring a team of architects and engineers to assess and prioritize the issues with JCPS facilities.

“To rush things and not really think about the big picture, I don’t think that’ll help us in the long term,” Brooks said. “I’m really trying to do things the right way and that does take time.”

Turf fields are not a new idea in the city’s school system. JCPS and superintendent Marty Pollio have been talking about installing turf at 20 football stadiums across the district since at least 2019, and the anticipated minimum cost of a new field then was $750,000.

“Our ADs work really hard with upkeep,” Brooks said. “A lot of them are out there fixing things, painting and really trying to make sure that things stay as nice as they can for as long as they can. But as far as money and resources? It just depends on the community and how much they want to partner with the school.”

Butler’s new baseball infield could be a preview to the upgrades other JCPS schools hope to see during Brooks’ tenure. With upgraded facilities, JCPS schools would be able to host more KHSAA postseason events, cut down on maintenance and inject some excitement back into the community.

“Other coaches have reached out seeing what we’ve done and what works fundraising wise,” Fraizer said. “I think this opens the door to show that JCPS schools does have things going for us and fundraising is available out there. … In no way was it easy. But if we can do it in the South End it might instill in some other school that they can do it as well.”

Follow Courier Journal reporter JL Kirven on Twitter @JL_Kirven for more updates on Louisville prep sports.

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