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New turf in store for Joe Debely
TUSD Joe Debely
The Turlock High girls soccer team is looking forward to getting back on the pitch when their season starts next week. - photo by Journal file photo

When Turlock’s football teams hit the gridiron this fall, athletes will kickoff on a new turf field at Joe Debely Stadium that this time will keep them safe.

The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to enter into an agreement with Field Turf to replace the football stadium’s artificial turf, with the project tentatively slated to begin in June and anticipated to be completed six to eight weeks later.

“Obviously there’s a huge history with something like this, and we have to go all the way back to football season 2016,” said TUSD Director of Maintenance and Operations Scott Richardson.

The turf at Joe Debely Stadium caused problems for the 2016 football teams from both Turlock and Pitman when the field was shut down in August due to failed compaction tests. The artificial turf uses an infill that is supposed to soften the force of an impact, but the environmentally-friendly material began to deteriorate much earlier than the promised 10- to 15-year life span. Renovations at Joe Debely Stadium, which included the installation of the turf field, were completed in 2010.

A new infill replacement procedure occurred later that football season, and since the turf was under warranty at the time, all costs were covered by the manufacturer.

In May 2017, the Board set aside $500,000 from the district’s General Fund into the Special Reserve Capital Projects Fund in order to help fund the turf’s forthcoming replacement, as the field’s warranty was set to expire at the end of the year. Then, in August 2017, the Board authorized Verde Design to provide services to properly scope the project and submit plans to the State Architect’s office for review.

“Over the past year we’ve been looking at what we will do with the field, and we want to address it now rather than wait until it gets any worse,” said Richardson.

In October 2017, Richardson and other TUSD administrators visited four Bay Area high school football fields in order to see what materials other campuses were using and how effective they were. The team ultimately decided that Field Turf was the best option.

“There are enough of these fields around the Valley now that everyone has the opportunity to see good fields and to play on good fields, and we’ve had coaching staff and fellow maintenance staff looking at fields from Modesto, Stockton, Atwater and beyond, giving us their opinions as to what they think are the best fields out there and Field Turf has come up as their number one choice almost every single time,” said Richardson.

Field Turf is used by NFL football teams like the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, and utilizes an infill made of a cork and sand mixture, as well as a Brock shock pad underneath the field to reduce impact.

“The cork infill material has been very desirable for many reasons, but one of the main reasons being that it’s cool,” said Richardson. “It’s a natural product so it dissipates heat, so it doesn’t retain the heat like a lot of the rubber fields do.”

Trustee Bob Weaver pointed out that those same reasons for picking a cork infill sounded similar to the District’s reasoning for selecting the economically-friendly infill that was selected during the stadium’s 2010 renovation, which eventually deteriorated.

Richardson explained that two Bay Area fields with cork infill inspected by the TUSD administrative team were six years apart in age, but similar in condition.

“The one thing that we saw very clearly with our old field when that eco-fill broke down was that it became hard and there was no buoyancy to it whatsoever,” said Richardson. “Cork retains that buoyancy.”

The Board, with the absence of Trustee Mark Walker, approved a California Multiple Awards Schedule proposal from Field Turf. CMAS offers a wide variety of commodities, non-IT services and information technology products and services at prices which have been assessed to be fair, reasonable and competitive, allowing the District to apply without putting out a formal bid.

The cost of the project is $762,083, and TUSD has also added services to haul the field’s old turf away and to increase the length of the turf’s fibers by a quarter of an inch, bringing the grand total to $775,239. An owner direct contingency of five percent was also included in the plan ($38,761.95) for any unforeseen conditions that may arise during the course of construction.

Though approved by the Board, TUSD is still awaiting approval from the state.

“We will not sign any agreement with Field Turf until we have that stamp,” said Richardson.