Rain delays work on E.D. White's turf

Work continues on the artificial turf at E.D. White Catholic's Yockey Bernard Field at Harvey Peltier Stadium in Thibodaux. (Photo by Abby Tabor/Staff)

Mother Nature is doing her best to upstage Vandebilt Catholic as E.D. White Catholic's premier rival right now.

Throughout the last month, rain has slowed down E.D. White's installation of a new turf field at Yockey Bernard Field at Harvey Peltier Stadium.

E.D. White athletic director Preston LeJeune said the project, which started in mid-July, was originally scheduled for completion before the Cardinals' regular season opener against Vandebilt in Thibodaux on Sept. 6, but the recent rain has raised concerns on whether the field will be ready in time.

"We're struggling with the rain," LeJeune said. "It looks like it rains here every day or every other day. We're behind schedule. I've never seen this much rain. When we get it, it's a good rain. A couple of times we've got 2 inches of rain, so they've lost quite a few days of work. It's going to be cutting it close whether we'll have it ready for Sept. 6."

LeJeune said if the field isn't ready for Sept. 6, the season opener against Vandebilt will be moved to Buddy Marcello Stadium in Houma on Vandebilt's campus. LeJeune said the school should know by the end of this week if the field will be ready for the season opener.

"We just need cooperation from the weather," LeJeune said. "I think we can get it done. If not, we're going to move the game to Vandebilt and next year they'll return the game to our place. (Vandebilt athletic director) Laury Dupont and I talked when we started getting rain at the start of the project. Hopefully we're going to open up at home and have a ribbon cutting ceremony on the 6th at our place."

LeJeune said the project is funded by the donation of The Broussard and Bernard families, who approached E.D. White officials earlier this year and asked about donating money for a turf field and a new lighting system at the stadium. The field is named for Yockey Bernard, a longtime contributor to E.D. White athletics who died at 86 in July.

LeJeune said the total cost of the project is around $1 million, and the school hired GEO Surfaces of Baton Rouge to install the turf.

E.D. White football coach Kyle Lasseigne said he is still optimistic that they will play the Vandebilt game at home this season. Lasseigne said the football team has been forced to practice in the gym during bad weather days.

"They've made significant progress in the last week or so," he said. "The (GEO Surfaces) guy said if we can get some decent weather, it's on track to be ready. We've got to take their word for it when it's going to be done. It looks like it's on track. If we get a bunch of rain, probably not. It would be nice to be out there for the first game."

LeJeune said the rain has prevented workers from completing an important step in applying soil cement to the field. If workers place the soil cement on the field in wet conditions, it will cause the dirt to sink, so LeJeune said they are hoping for a couple of dry days to complete that part of the process.

Once the soil cement is on the field, LeJeune said the next step is to finish adding drainage pipes around the field before moving into the final stage of installing the turf.

While they wait for signs of progress with the field, LeJeune said workers are preparing to start adding the new lights to the stadium. LeJeune said the lights for the project arrived on Friday, and the new 70-foot light poles will come in later this week.

The wiring for the new lights will run under the field, and the new poles will be set up closer to the field. The new lights will have more power than the old ones, which will help brighten the field on game nights, LeJeune said.

LeJeune said other parts of the project such as building new track and field event areas will take place later in the year.

"The main commitment is getting the football field done for 6th," LeJeune said. "Everything else can be done after it. With that being said, they are working their tails off to get it ready for us. We still have a shot at it, but things are going to have to fall in place for it."

Other football games scheduled to be held at E.D. White's stadium this season are Central Catholic (Sept. 20), Archbishop Shaw (Oct. 4), Donaldsonville (Oct. 11) and Patterson (Oct. 25).

LeJeune said E.D. White is thankful for the donation by the Broussard and Bernard families. When the project is complete, he said it will be a big boost for the school.

"It's a big plus for our athletic department, but also for our school," LeJeune said. "It gives us another good facility to use for football, soccer and track and field meets. Our band can use it for practice. We'll be able to practice on the field anytime, so this is a big deal for us."