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Grass to turf: The transformation of Phillipsburg’s Maloney Stadium

A new era has come for Phillipsburg High School football.

For 113 years, the town of Phillipsburg and its football team have embraced their grass field, and the muck and grittiness that comes with playing the sport of on grass.

But the muck will soon be gone. Workers began replacing Bellis Field at Maloney Stadium with artificial turf last November. LandTek crews came in and first began digging up the grass. It was a slow process, with weather delaying the transformation. But crews painstakingly weathered the elements and steadily turned the field to turf.

Senior football player Bobby Coury thinks the different playing surface shouldn’t change anything. “Maloney will always be special whether it is grass or turf because of the culture, tradition, and blue-collared mentality instilled in Phillipsburg. Changing the playing surface does not affect those things,” he said.

But Bobby’s twin brother Tommy, also a senior football player, wasn’t so sure. “I was very surprised when I heard that turf was going to be replacing the grass, and a little disappointed at first, to be honest, because the grass holds so much historical value,” he said.

Phillipsburg High School now joins many high schools that made the jump from grass to turf on football fields. This could be a good thing for the team as they face other schools with turf fields. “It allows us to prepare better for our games because we always play on turf, especially the most important game on Thanksgiving. All I want this season is to win, so if turf helps out with that, then I welcome it,” Bobby Coury said.

The project cost the school district $1.3 million.

It will probably be a bittersweet adjustment for many of the seniors who’ve played on grass for most of their career and now will play on turf their final year.

“It will be weird running out onto the turf field for the first home game,” Tommy Coury said. “I am a little sad to see it go, but my excitement to just be on the field with my teammates in front of the town far outweighs any feelings of sadness.”

Phillipsburg’s football team had a great record at home this past year. They hosted their last home game, on grass, against Irvington on November 17, beating them 42-7.

Now as the team looks to continue their impressive home record from last year, will the turf jinx them? “I do not believe in jinxes,” Coach Frank Duffy said. “The playing surface does not affect our attitude or our preparation as a program. This game is about blocking, tackling and execution, which are not affected by the playing surface.”

Coach Duffy thinks the investment the school district made in installing the turf will only positively affect the team, its practices and games from here on out.

But with a town like Phillipsburg and its high school football team's rich tradition and winning pride, change can be difficult to overcome.

Coach Duffy had some advice: “I would say to anyone who is disappointed with the turf field to have an open mind. There will always be some resistance to change but that resistance will fade as the years go on just like anything. They should also keep in mind the most important game of the year is played on turf Thanksgiving morning at Fisher Field.”

Now that the new field is in place, crews will begin to replace the track over the next several weeks.

Saed Hindash may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SaedHindash. Find lehighvalleylive on Facebook.

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