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A-Turf is the Answer for Big Reds-Lowell Playoff Game

The Muskegon-Lowell football playoff game “” a showdown that attracted about 11,000 fans at Lowell in 2006 when Muskegon won a state championship “” is heading south to Grand Haven High School. Muskegon Public School officials announced the switch Tuesday afternoon from Muskegon’s historic Hackley Stadium to Gene Rothi Memorial Field at Buccaneer Stadium. Gates open Saturday at 11:30 a.m. with kickoff at 1 p.m. Muskegon (11-0) is scheduled to host Lowell (11-0) in a Division 2 regional football championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday. Administrators cited several factors for Muskegon giving up home-field advantage to play at a neutral site for the Division 2 regional championship between the two undefeated teams. Among them are: “¢ After several days of rain and the field being abused in last Saturday’s district title game, playing conditions at Hackley Stadium were not considered optimal. Muskegon practiced on the field Monday afternoon. “It really limits kids ability to move around,” Muskegon coach Tony Annese said of the conditions. “To me, I’d call it treacherous. It’s really difficult.” “¢ Tremendous ticket demand. Hackley Stadium can seat 5,000 and has attracted standing-room crowds close to 7,500. At Grand Haven, seating is 6,000 with the ability to host a standing-room crowd of 9,000. “¢ Parking issues and traffic congestion near Muskegon High School. The historic school is in the center of a neighborhood and has only a few small parking areas on its campus. Playing on Grand Haven’s state-of-the-art synthetic field turf should create a better game for both teams and fans. Traction will be much better on the turf than Muskegon’s chewed up, muddy grass field. The Big Reds have used their speed and quickness to win 11 straight games and Annese welcomes the switch to a faster track. “Based upon the conditions at Hackley Stadium, our practice facility for us to efficiently be prepared this week, we need a place to practice and get ready,” Annese said. “It’s a big factor. It’s supposed to rain all week. I’d deem Hackley Stadium unplayable. The decision was made by the administration and I support the decision.” Grand Haven athletic director Jack Provencal said both teams would be offered the opportunity to practice this week at Buccaneer Stadium. Annese surveyed his players at a Sunday night meeting about possibly playing away from Hackley Stadium this week because of field conditions. “I wanted their sentiments on what they felt,” Annese said. “I asked them, ‘How would you feel if this site was changed to play this game?’ Not one single person stated they wouldn’t want to go somewhere else if it was synthetic turf. They want the game to be decided on the field, not because of the field.” Muskegon, as the host school with a higher playoff point average, can switch the game site without Lowell having a say. Annese said he alerted Lowell coach Noel Dean on Sunday night that the playing surface at Hackley Stadium was not in good shape and there was a possibility of a site change. Dean is not making a big deal about playing at Grand Haven. “This is truly not my call, not our call, and it’s a shame for them that they could not host a game of this importance at their place,” Dean said. “I feel bad for them. I am sure it was a very difficult decision for them to reach. “If the reason is for the safety of their players, though, I can totally respect that. We were not a factor in this decision process, and we are taking it at face value that it was about the health of the kids. We absolutely respect that.” Turf Services, of Spring Lake, performed an inspection and did some work on the field Tuesday. In addition to being a good neighbor to the south, Grand Haven High School will be receiving all revenue from parking, which is $3 per vehicle, and concessions. Muskegon athletic director Mike Watson said Muskegon will be providing ushers, security, the announcer, a press-box supervisor and field staff. GHHS will provide ticket sellers, takers, a scoreboard operator and site manager. Watson said Ottawa County Police will be in attendance along with Muskegon’s student specialists and Lowell’s administration. Cars parking along U.S. 31 to attend the game because of full parking lots can expect to be ticketed by public safety officers. Shuttle services from two church locations will be available. Provencal said he and Watson talked late last week about Grand Haven possibly hosting the playoff game because of poor field conditions at Hackley. “Of course, we wanted to help out,” Provencal said. “Why wouldn’t you want to help out a neighbor? Our community has supported (Buccaneer Stadium) and we’re proud to showcase it.” Muskegon is working on plans to provide limited bus transportation for Big Red fans to Grand Haven. Lowell also has good quickness and explosive skill players that will benefit from playing on Grand Haven’s turf. Annese is glad the game will be played in an environment that will not take away his team strengths. “We certainly don’t want to be limited by using our speed and quickness,” Annese said. “We don’t want that minimized at all.”

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