Starting in 1976 as a family-operated company that sealed local driveways, Byrne & Jones Construction Inc. has grown into a major provider of rubberized tracks and artificial turf football and soccer fields for high schools, colleges and professional training fields.
That work has become so much a part of Byrne & Jones’ business that the Maryland Heights-based company recently spun off a separate division strictly for building and maintaining sports surfaces in 10 Midwestern states, including Missouri and Illinois. The new Byrne & Jones Sports Division is headed by Britt Taulbee, a company executive vice president.
“Our construction company used to do the asphalt part of track and field installations, and then we’d wait for the actual turf and track surfaces from other companies,” Taulbee said. “But what we found over time was that because there were few companies that installed the surfaces that it became tough to schedule all those jobs.”
So Byrne & Jones sent some of its own employees for training in installing rubberized tracks and Field Turf, as well as other artificial track and field surfaces. The company also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in specialized equipment to enable it to do entire installation jobs when schools and colleges would call for replacement of their old tracks and fields, Taulbee said.
“At first, we didn’t market it outside of St. Louis,” he said. “Then word got around about our work.”
Byrne & Jones, even before spinning off its sports division, has installed tracks and fields at dozens of area schools, as well as new artificial turf football fields for Southern Illinois University Carbondale, high schools in Topeka, Kan., a recreation field at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the training fields for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.
Two years ago, Byrne & Jones installed the artificial turf fields now used by St. Charles West High School and St. Charles High.
“We’re delighted to have two fields which can host an unlimited number of activities and are also safer for our athletes and more cost-efficient to maintain,” said Randy Charles, superintendent of the St. Charles School District.
The company’s new sports division consists of Taulbee, project manager Jameson Sheley and 16 employees divided into five crews: two teams that install rubberized tracks and three groups that install artificial surfaces for football and soccer fields, as well as rubberized tennis courts. That’s roughly a quarter of Byrne & Jones’ entire work force.
To date, Byrne & Jones has installed and maintained more than 1,000 athletic surfaces, including artificial and some natural turf fields, tracks and several tennis courts.
“While we are the largest commercial paving contractor in St. Louis, in recent years up to 20 percent of our business has come from schools upgrading athletic facilities,” said Brian Goggins, president of Byrne & Jones Construction.
“More and more schools are looking for ways to strategically manage their real estate assets, reduce maintenance costs and use their sports facilities as a college recruiting tool.”
Taulbee said the average new track at a high school or college would last about 20 to 25 years with regular maintenance. The average new artificial football or soccer field turf lasts about 10 to 12 years, he said.
Replacement and maintenance of an artificial track and field costs a school an average of nearly $1.2 million, Taulbee said. Though a huge number, that figure can prove to be a bargain for many schools over the costs of maintaining a natural turf field for the same period.
The easier maintenance of artificial surfaces also makes it possible for schools and colleges to rent out those fields and tracks to make more money, he said.
Installation and maintenance of artificial tracks and fields has become a big business nationally, Taulbee said. About 600 tracks and 800 artificial fields are installed annually throughout the United States, he said.
Byrne & Jones did nearly $6 million in artificial track and field business last year, before the sports division was created, Taulbee said.
“This year, we’re going for about $10 million,” he said.