Anyone that has either competed in athletics or watched as a spectator from the stands during the last three decades, especially in the southeastern United States, chances are the natural grass or artificial turf on which the event was being played was installed by a company from Carroll County.
For the past 30 years, Sports Turf Company located near Whitesburg has been constructing sports fields for a wide variety of sports from football and soccer to track and tennis. Founded by Heard County native and long time Carroll County resident Aaron McWhorter in 1991, the company has become one of the top companies of its kind in the region with more than 700 installations in six states dotting the landscape across the southern region of the United States.
Starting with a 20-acre sod farm in 1986 on Black Dirt Road near Whitesburg, McWhorter's burgeoning operation now encompasses nearly 3,000 acres in six different locations in Georgia, including five sites outside Carroll County in Calhoun, Perry, Fort Valley, Clarkesville and Douglas County.
Fifteen years ago, according to McWhorter, his business was totally centered around the installation of natural grass fields at high schools and recreation facilities.
But times have changed.
"Now, 75% of our jobs are artificial turf," McWhorter noted, "so the trend is definitely toward synthetic turf."
"Maintaining artificial turf is not nearly as labor intensive to maintain," he said.
Among the business's most notable installations were the Softball Complex for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and fields for the Atlanta Falcons, Auburn University, University of Mississippi, University of Alabama, Mississippi State University, and numerous high schools through out the country.
Locally, Sports Turf has been responsible for the construction of numerous football and other sports fields and courts at all Carroll County high schools, Carrollton City Schools, and the University of West Georgia.
The company has won numerous awards and cited for a variety of accomplishments, including the construction of the first full-size indoor high school football field for a Georgia high school in 2018 a Colquitt County High in Moultrie.
In addition to football fields, Sports Turf diversified its offerings in 2004 by creating a running track and and tennis court division.
Also, the use of artificial turf has been a major factor in the construction of indoor practice facilities throughout the country. The Pope-McGinnis Student Activities Center on the Carrollton High School campus is a prime local example.
In recent years, the local company has initiated renovation and reclamation projects, including the recent installation of a new surface for the existing running track and addition of new field event areas at the University of West Georgia.
SportsTurf acquires its synthetic grass from SportGroup located in Dalton which produces the well-known AstroTurf that has been on the market for more than 50 years.
Business continues to grow for both NGTurf and Sports Turf. Compared
"We recently broke ground on five fields in Columbia County near Augusta," Todd Wiggiins, president of Sports Turf said.
A standard field conversion takes 8-10 weeks of construction. Funding for the projects comes from a variety of sources, including a combination of pubic and private ventures, the operating budgets of local governments and school systems and booster clubs.
SPLOST revenue continues to be a large component of paying for many projects.
Combined, NG Turf and SportsTurf employ approximately 200 people.