You hear it all the time when people are talking sports, and sometimes even when they're talking politics or office management.

The 'it' in this case, is talk of 'leveling the playing field,' and nowhere have they done a better job of leveling the playing field - both figuratively and literally - than in the Beaverton School District where work is currently underway on new artificial turf playing surfaces at both Southridge and Westview high schools.

Here's the deal - Southridge and Westview, two of five Beaverton School District high schools, will become the final two schools in the new Metro League to have their football/soccer fields converted to artificial turf.

Work is underway at both schools (see accompanying story) and expected - athletic directors and coaches at both schools really, really hope - to be done before the start of the new school year. Jesuit, though not part of the Beaverton School District, was the first Beaverton-area Metro League school to add turf to their football field, ripping up their previously lousy home field and replacing it with turf back in 1999.

Beaverton High School joined the rug club in the fall of 2002, their sparkling new surface coming on the heels of a $1 million donation from Beaverton alum Tom Montague that also paid for later construction of baseball and softball stadiums at the school.

Aloha joined the turf wars in 2004, fielding their new surface behind a creative mix of funding from the Beaverton School District, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, Nike, Aloha Youth Soccer and the Aloha Community Involvement Program.

Sunset hit the ground running with its new turf surface last year, using its Legacy Project to raise money and supplement the school district's contributions, bringing to the fore the new artificial turf covering on its multi-purpose field (as well as a new gym floor, new bleachers, a new wrestling mat and other items).

Now come Southridge's and Westview's turns, and those turns couldn't have come at a better or more appropriate time.

Westview and Southridge, the two newest high schools in the district, worked hard to survive with their natural grass fields in what was increasingly becoming a turf era, but it wasn't always easy. To save wear and tear on its football field, Westview has always played its 'home' soccer games at off-site locales, usually at Tualatin Hills, and also had to move a 2004 playoff football game to Hillsboro Stadium as an accommodation to its muddy home field.

Southridge, too, has had notable struggles with its natural grass surface and the corresponding effect that Oregon's rainy fall weather has on it. While the Skyhawks have always played their home soccer games on the school's stadium field, both boys and girls teams and the Southridge football team had to take 'home' games on the road last fall.

Finally, with strong support from the Beaverton School District and Superintendent Jerry Colonna, and with additional fundraising supplied by Southridge and Westview high schools, the Skyhawks and Wildcats will join the club.

And with the five Beaverton high schools and Jesuit joining together to form the new, consolidated Class 6A Metro League this fall (the four Hillsboro high schools, former Metro League members, have joined a new Class 5A league), there could be no better time.

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