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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
When the official announcement came out during the fall of 2015 that all 13 Knox County football stadiums would receive turf, South-Doyle coach Clark Duncan was in shock.
"I have been in Knox County for over 40 years," Duncan said. "I say all the time that had you said one school in Knox County would have a new turf field I would have laughed.
"But, when it was announced that all 13 would be getting them thanks to the Haslam family, Pilot and Pilot Flying J, I was floored."
Entering the second year of the Field of Dreams project, South-Doyle will kick off its home opener with Cherokee on Aug. 25 on a new turf field as part of the second wave of fields that received the turf gift.
South-Doyle was one of four to get a new playing surface. Carter, Gibbs and Halls also had turf put down.
Those four join Bearden, Central, Farragut, Fulton and Powell as Knox County schools that have received their turf through the project.
In 2018, Austin-East, Hardin Valley and Karns and West will get turf to complete the project.
"We feel blessed to be able to make a gift like this that impacts students and communities throughout Knox County," said Will Haslam, Director of Giving Back for Pilot Flying J. "It has been a joy to watch both student-athletes and marching band members compete and perform on the five fields that were completed last summer, and we're very excited to see four more fields in action this fall."
The $10.1 million gift, which included $1.3 million in money for academic and educational enhancements, has been a "game changer" in more ways than one.
"We are a better football program because of the new field," said Farragut coach Eddie Courtney, whose team won the Class 5A state title in 2016. "To be able to teach our kids with the clear lines on the field gives us the ability to be so much more specific in our coaching.
"Before we had to spend 12-24 hours per week mowing, painting lines and general upkeep we don't have to do anymore."
It's not just the football teams that are reaping the benefits. Having turned football fields into multi-use facilities has helped other sports and bands as well. "We are kind of land-locked at Fulton," Fulton athletic director Jody Wright said. "When it's rained, you might see our baseball or softball team down there practicing on our new field.
"Also, our baby Falcons pee wee football teams have been affected. When it would rain on a Friday night before we'd have to tell the young kids they couldn't play on a Saturday because we didn't want the field torn up. Now we don't have to worry about that."
Duncan said the gift from the Haslams has been a blessing.
"What the Haslams have done for us — it's Christmas every day," he said.
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