KPLR11, By: Patrick Clark

BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI) – ‘March Madness’ may have begun, but in Belleville, Illinois they’re looking forward to football.

“We have 20 ads on the field right now and we’ve got six more sometime this spring, there will be more ads on the side of the field,” says Dr. Jeff Dozier, Belleville 201 Superintendent.

It’s nothing new to see signage in, on, and around stadiums in professional sports. But Belleville District 201 might be the first to fund their prep stadium surfaces with synthetic turf ad panels.

Trying to pay for a playing surface like this can be especially hard for a high school in the modern age. But if you’re a savvy school district and decide to do both high school fields at the same time, well then you’re making dollars and sense.

The project cost $1.4 million and was paid for with the help of booster clubs, alumni donations, and ad sales along the sideline.

“We don’t spend a whole lot of money, but most of the advertising we do is through community-based involvement,” says Matthew Dilrenth, GM Chik-Fil-A Greenmount Crossing. “So for us to be involved with such a dynamic organization as District 201 is not only smart business, but it partners with what we’re about … developing the leaders of tomorrow.”

Both the Belleville West Maroons and Belleville East Lancers are sporting the new ads, which include five-year commitments from advertisers. The school district says the synthetic surface is safer than a sod field, but what happens if an advertiser wants off the field and out of the game?

“The panels are absolutely removable,” says Jameson Sheley of Byrne and Jones. “It’s basically a piece of turf that is glued together in place. All you do is cut it, pull out, and put a new one back in or put a green panel back in and be done with it. It’s very interchangeable.”

Much like carpet squares in a basement rec room, these new fields are evergreen.

“We can use this 365 days a year,” says Dozier. “When we had a grass field the conditions had to be pretty much just right for us to be comfortable in using it.”