BERRIEN SPRINGS — Motorists driving on M-139 into Berrien Springs will soon see the start of construction of the new Sylvester Stadium complex.

District officials and contractors officially broke ground on the project Thursday evening.

The $9 million project replaces the Sylvester football field with a complex that will not only be home to the high school’s football program but also the soccer and track and field programs.

Rob Swem, of Pearson Construction, said Thursday that site work including demolition could start as early as next week. The new complex is slated to be officially done by Aug. 1, 2020.

District officials said earlier this month that the high school football team will play all their games on the road for the 2019 season. The district has made arrangements to use the facilities of nearby schools for their “home” games.

“This field has been here since 1938,” Superintendent Dave Eichberg said. “It was last renovated in 1999 and falls short of meeting the needs of our student athletes.”

He said the school board and district administration decided to start the project, which will be funded totally from the district’s general fund, rather than just make improvements. The bid for the project was awarded to Pearson Construction at a special board meeting last week.

Their bid was for just under $8 million but the school board has set aside another $1 million for contingencies, equipment and building furnishings.

“We had the opportunity financially to upgrade the facility rather than just making improvements,” Eichberg said. “We felt it was our duty to replace it with a new complex.”

Eichberg noted that the new complex fits in well with the district’s overall campus master plan as well as the $19 million worth of improvements voters approved last November.

“Part of the reason for the complete renovation had to do with the campus master plan,” he said. “We had to move the track and soccer fields to make way for the performing arts center and indoor athletic center, so it made logical sense to move those fields over here.”

Plans call for the new football field to have artificial turf. Eichberg said other area districts that use artificial turf include Lakeshore, New Buffalo and St. Joseph.