Walter Payton honored as Hellas installs Matrix Helix synthetic turf in Columbia, Miss.

The field that bears the name of arguably the most famous Chicago Bear, NFL Hall of Fame Running Back Walter Payton, will forever be enshrined at Gardner Stadium. Walter and his brother Eddie played the sport they loved for the Wildcats of Columbia High School in Mississippi. A statue of the man simply known as “Sweetness” greets visitors in the home plaza welcoming them to Walter Payton Field.

At the Varsity Team’s home opener, Columbia School District Superintendent Dr. James Harris proudly announced, “It’s Walter Payton Field, named after the greatest Running Back of all time.” Payton was once the all-time leading rusher in the NFL, and helped guide Chicago to the 1985 Super Bowl title. Payton died at the age of 45 of a rare liver disease in 1999. 

“It’s very fitting for Hellas to be the turf provider that installed this field,” said Harris who has been a part of three different Hellas turf installations in his career.

Hellas’ Matrix Helix synthetic turf has been trusted by eight NFL teams for their game field or practice facilities. The Helix technology adds memory and strength to fibers, allowing the fibers to spring back quickly after use. The Ecotherm infill installed by Hellas allows for better traction, while keeping the field about 30 degrees cooler than traditional SBR crumb rubber infill.

When Walter and Eddie played football at Columbia High School, they both wore number 22 and both later played football at Jackson State University, where Walter changed his jersey to number 34. 

“This is wonderful,” said Eddie Payton said. “I have very fond memories of playing at our home field. I scored my first touchdown here and both of my parents, who are deceased are looking down upon this stadium and are smiling next to my brother saying you did good.”

Hellas installed a paved into place Cushdrain shockpad, which not only helps the field drain better but extends the life of the surface. Hellas also installed an S200 epiQ track system. Safety is a priority for Columbia School District, who received a $250,000 LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) grant, which provided funding through the NFL Foundation. 

“To have Eddie here, and he and Walter’s first football coach Charles Boston to be here, was a special moment,” Harris said. “To see tears come down their eyes is why you do a project like this.”

Hellas Director of Business Development Harper Seaton, Hellas Business Development Manager Ryne Drummonds and Project Preconstruction Manager Jose Sosa were on hand to receive a special award, which was crafted from the previous bleachers at Columbia High School’s Gardner stadium to form a letter C symbolic of Columbia and Chicago where Walter played. There was also a bonus replica statue presented from the Walter Payton Plaza created by the nationally recognized Ben Watts, who is also from Columbia.

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