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Sale Creek football player Keylon Hickey drops back to cover a receiver during a scrimmage at Grace Academy. Prior to this year, Sale Creek football practiced on a field at North Hamilton Elementary.

The Sale Creek High football team has been practicing on the field at North Hamilton Elementary for three years, but that's coming to an end. Collaborative efforts between the school board, county government and Sale Creek community have resulted in a graded and sodded field, and County Commissioner Randy Fairbanks said he hopes it will be developed more in the future.

The field is expected to be ready in time for the 2016 football season.

"As far as I'm aware, they were the only school in Hamilton County that didn't have a [football] field or stadium," Fairbanks said. "There were concerns about players getting hurt, and I wanted to see what I could do."

Fairbanks said he'd heard from many parents of players who were worried that practicing at North Hamilton Elementary put them farther away from medical resources should the need arise.

So he initiated conversation with County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Todd Leamon of the county's Public Works Department and they agreed that some of the property surrounding the school could be graded by county crews to create, at the very least, a level playing area the team could practice on.

Soon after, the school board got on board, offering sod to cover the area in grass, Fairbanks said.

Justin Witt, Hamilton County's maintenance and operations director, said he estimates the cost of the field at roughly $30,000. In addition to the board of education and the county's highway and maintenance departments, the Sale Creek booster club and others pitched in to make it a reality.

Fairbanks said he's excited for the future prospects of the field.

"The hope is that although we're starting small right now, we can build and build until we have a nice facility," said Fairbanks, who volunteers as a football referee for local recreation leagues in his spare time. "A full football stadium would be great. We're not at that point yet, but I'm confident we'll get there."

Contact Shane Foley at sfoley@timesfreepress.com or 757-6506.

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