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Take it to the Field

Take it to the Field

Bringing Paducah Tilghman’s Football Field into the Future is Just One Part of a Grand Plan

J.T. Crawford

Occasionally, Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Shively takes a stroll around the  Paducah Tilghman High School grounds. He contemplates history and traditions—156 years worth. He thinks about the future with the continued construction of the Innovation Hub. He sees the old. He sees the new. But mostly, he sees opportunity. 

Sometimes, he makes his way over to Memorial Stadium and McRight Field, the home of the Paducah Tilghman football and track and field programs. These are hallowed grounds. As he pauses on the field, he imagines something new.

Dr. Shively recently crafted a plan to bring the field into the future by installing artificial turf to expand the field’s offerings as well as save funds over time. “An artificial turf means expanding its use possibilities to 365 days a year,” he says. “This would also allow us to bring soccer from the Jetton field to the campus.”

The first step was a review of research provided by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association and the National Football League regarding injuries on artificial turf vs. natural turf. “Player safety is on the front end of anything we are doing.” Artificial turf presents the opportunity to use an additional layer below the surface which allows for a higher absorption of force. A higher absorption level can potentially help not only with impact injuries but may also reduce wear and tear on players’ joints.   

Additionally, there is a total cost saving with artificial turf. “The cost is more upfront with artificial turf,” adds Dr. Shively, “but when you look at it ten to twelve years out, it’s a saving over time.”  

The turf project is just one many changes the Paducah Public Schools are implementing for the future of education in our city. “I want our Tilghman campus to look like a small college campus and be able to offer the things you’d be able to do at a small college.” Dr. Shively says.  He looks at the multiple components that comprise Paducah Public Schools, and he sees interconnectivity that should be reflected in the system’s physical landscape. 

That starts with the Innovation Hub, bringing art and design principles together with practical trades under the umbrella of Paducah Tilghman High School. The school system’s central offices will be brought on site. And the system received a grant that set plans in motion to relocate the preschool to the expanded Tilghman campus. “We’ll have the high school, which is central to our elementary schools and middle school, along with the Hub as the focus of aligning students to the workforce. From there, I can see a lot of cool things that we can do.” 

For example, Dr. Shively envisions working with adults who need an uplift in skills. If there are issues with childcare, there will be help with that. There is also room for expanded mental health supports as well as the opportunity to create an early childhood education pathway. Each asset Paducah Public Schools brings to fruition creates additional opportunities when linked together. “We’re bringing things closer in proximity,” adds Dr. Shively, “which allows us to leverage resources not only for our students but for the community. And we are central to a lot of our workforce as we partner with business and industry—from the hospitals to the river industry to the arts district to businesses like CSI. We’re also close to WKCTC, the UK College of Engineering, Paducah School of Art and Design, and the Murray State Campus. It’s been exciting to reimagine what the educational experience is.”

When it comes to sports programs, Dr. Shively sees them as a valuable component to overall education and a fundamental component to the overall plan. And, just like with all other endeavors, Paducah Public Schools wants to continue to build their sports programs with excellence. “Athletics is our number one dropout prevention program,” Dr. Shively says. “It’s vital. These programs not only helps keeps kids engaged, it teaches them to drive for excellence. And students begin to look at bettering themselves not only for self but for the whole of a team. A lot of the skills businesses and industries are looking for are taught in athletics. Many times we’ve lost focus on those kinds of skills in education—things like discipline, teamwork, resiliency. This is about whole child development.”

The turf project will be a community-supported effort. For more information on how to donate, contact Dr. Shively at 270-444-5600 or the Community Foundation of West KY at 270-442-8622 and ask about the McRight Field project.

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