Nine years ago, Lincoln High had one of the premier athletic fields in the state. The artificial turf was a huge advantage for the Cardinals' fast backs and receivers in football. This year, though, the Lincoln football team will be homeless for at least the first month of the season.

Over the summer, the Lincoln field was condemned after a test showed that it was unsafe to play upon.

'The facilities and maintenance people did a test this summer on the field that measures the amount of cushion,' says PIL Athletic Director Greg Ross. 'It was their decision that it was not safe to play on.'

The field was originally scheduled to be replaced by Sept. 29. But work on the field has yet to begin, which has pushed back the target date of completion.

'Right now, if all goes well, it should be completed in early October,' says Jeff Lewis, PPS facilities project manager.

That means the Cards do not even have a field on which to practice. During fall camp, they have been practicing on the football field at recently closed Marshall High as well as Portland State's Stott Community Field.

Lincoln coach Mike Fanger admits that not being able to practice on the high school field has created difficulties. But, he says the Lincoln parents have been able to step up and get their kids crosstown or to nearby PSU for practices.

'Obviously, it's more of a challenge,' Fanger says. 'But our parents are very supportive, and they know that things are out of our hands as far as getting things going. They've been fantastic as far as our participation. Attendance at Marshall has been fantastic.

'I can't thank the parents enough for helping us out. I know it can be a bother, and it's a challenge to get kids there. But they did a great job, and I really appreciate it.'

Until the new field is in place, Lincoln and other high school football teams that use the field, including Grant, will have to play at other locations. Grant's opener on Friday has been moved to Westview.

Fanger is taking a glass half-full view of the long process of putting in the new field, as the Cardinals prepare for their opener Friday at defending Class 6A champion Aloha.

'Obviously, it would have been ideal if it had been done at the beginning of the year," he says, "but that's just the way things go. We're happy to have a field being put in.'

The estimated cost of the new field is $506,287. That is well below the cost of installing the old field about nine years ago because some of the required elements of an artificial turf field are now in place.

'Basically, it's just replacing the carpet and then the rubber fill,' says Matt Shelby, Portland Public Schools public information officer.

Shelby says the money for the new field is coming from a variety of sources. Nike is putting in $122,000, Lincoln Lacrosse (a group of lacrosse teams that use the field) came up with $30,000, the Lincoln Athletic Boosters have raised $20,000, Portland State is kicking in $7,500 and the PPS Great Fields Fund is chipping in $42,000. The remaining balance of $284,787 will come out of the PPS capital fund.

The nine-year run of Lincoln's first artificial turf field was about what was expected. The district estimated that it would last 10 years. The field has held up remarkably well considering that Lincoln has been home to a huge number of athletic events, including soccer matches and youth football.

'It's about where we expected it would be, just about a year sooner,' Ross says. 'But the use was a lot heavier than people maybe anticipated.'

The district is now putting a plan in place to charge users of its four artificial turf fields, including Lincoln.

'We're going to come up with some kind of a plan that helps with the replacement of these fields,' Ross says, looking ahead. 'We know these fields are going to last nine to 10, maybe 12 years, depending on use. It shouldn't have to be left up to the schools to do fundraising every time.'

Having to go so long without a home field does not make things easy for the Cardinals as they try to win their league and make a run in the football playoffs. But Fanger believes that if his team is meant to win games, it will.

'It's obviously a challenge, and we've addressed it,' Fanger says. 'But it really doesn't matter. In high school football, the best team wins no matter where you play. So we'll just play wherever they ask us to play.'

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