David Brechtel’s full-time job isn’t football – but his full-time passion is. Like many others, Brechtel happened upon Niceville when the Air Force moved his parents here to serve at Eglin Air Force Base. He’s a Niceville guy through and through.
He played football here – his brothers were on the 1988 state championship team. Now, he works with kids on the field where he used to play.
But David’s been charged with fixing that. The field, which has about 140 heavy-use events like graduations, high school and middle school sporting events, and more, spends more time as mud than a field. The only healing time the grass gets during the year is between graduation and summer football workouts. The peak healing season for the facility’s grass is in July – and it sports 10 or 12 distinctive dead patches, evidence of heavy use.
At times, the field’s usability situation has gotten so bad the athletic department has considered drastic measures. “Last year before the North Miami Beach game, we considered bringing in a helicopter a low altitude to blow off the excess water from the field. Everything was set up, but we decided it was too risky with kids around and decided not to do it,” he said.
At about this time, the athletic department tasked the coach with finding out how much it would cost to get the field turfed. The answer? Between $930,000 to $940,000.
When it’s all said and done, Brechtel hopes to have the field named after Niceville Football player Taylor Haugen, who died playing for the team in 2008. He’s already received permission from Brian and Kathy, Taylor’s parents.
This field wouldn’t just be for the Football Team – according to Brecthel. “This is a community field, and you can see people using it on the weekends as you drive by on John Sims,” he noted, “every single kid will be able to touch this new field, from the band kids who won’t have to cross the street to practice, to lacrosse and soccer as well.”
Bretchel’s next challenge? Raising the money. At one point, a donor had promised to pay for the whole thing but eventually backed out. The coach’s next move: a community fundraising campaign to make the new grounds a reality.
If you want to donate to the project, drop a check at the Niceville High School Principal’s Office or leave a check with the Athletic Director, Daniel Griffin. For the school to begin constructing the field, which could take as little as 26 days, they need the final approval from the Okaloosa County School Board and every penny required to build the project in a bank account.
Back in my day, we had to walk uphill to and from school, and turf fields were sweltering. Something like 50º warmer on the field than the air temperature that day. They were miserable to play on.
Technology has come a long way in 15 years or so. Geo Surfaces, the company that hopes to install the new turf field on Niceville’s campus, has upgraded from a rubberized material (which is black and absorbs heat) to a rubberized silicate compound (which is off-white and reflects heat away from the surface.) “Geo flew us out to Baton Rouge, where they have two fields. One is a traditional turf field, and another is a field with their new product – the difference is amazing,” Brechtel said about the temperature differences. “We wanted to go with them because they know about dealing with our wetland conditions in Florida. They are a perfect fit and have also worked with us on price.”
LSU and Stanford have installed this new field – as do the New England Patriots, Auburn, Baylor, The Swamp at the University of Florida, The University of Central Florida, and other schools.
Brecthel believes the new field will reduce the number of injuries to kids – especially after periods of heavy rain. The muddy surface can lead to sprains, tears, and other injuries because of unsure football, which Brechtel believes would have fewer chances to occur on the new cover.