The final touches were made to Ray Stadium, in preparation for Meridian High's first game of the season Friday.
Officials with Meridian High are excited about the debut of the new turf. The Wildcats host the Clinton Arrows Friday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The turf itself cost $560,000, but no public money has been used to finance the field. Donations from the private sector were raised in an endowment to improve the stadium as a whole.
"We've got commitments raised up over $600,000, but those are broken down over a ten-year period," said Guin Kendrick, vice-president of marketing for Enviroturf. "And so we're still trying to raise money on the front end to pay for the actual turf and get it out of the way. And that's going to free up the rest of that money that's committed, to create the endowment for Ray Stadium so we can make future improvements."
The endowment from the turf will in turn help the fan experience by improving the facilities around Ray Stadium.
"Just to clean up Ray, maybe do some cleaning to the stands and things like that, add some more seating, maybe to improve the bathrooms," said Kendrick. "And if we get there, maybe address some of these parking issues that we have on Friday night."
During halftime Friday, Meridian High plans to honor those who have helped make this very field possible.
"We are going to have some recognitions at halftime for our biggest donors," said MHS athletic director Chuck Butler. "We plan on giving them a little air time and tell them how much we appreciate their efforts in helping us make Ray Stadium the best stadium around."
There is a gate change in effect. The southwest gate, on the press box side by the new multi-purpose building, will not be open. Those attending the game will need to enter the press box side by the gate closest to 32nd Street.
Ray Stadium is celebrating its 76th anniversary this year. It seats 14,000 people, making it the largest high school football stadium in Mississippi.