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Joe Debely Stadium ready for start of football season
Joe Debely turf
A new field of artificial turf was installed at Joe Debely Stadium just in time for the start of a new football season.

Two weeks before the Friday night lights return to Joe Debely Stadium, a brand new field of artificial turf stands ready to play host to Turlock’s football teams as they vie for dominance in the new Central California Athletic League.

The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted in February to enter into an agreement with Field Turf to replace the football stadium’s artificial turf. 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 replacement, as the field’s warranty was set to expire at the end of the year.

The final cost of the project came in at $778,623, 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. The project was funded through the District Major Projects and Special Reserves; no bond funds were used, according to TUSD Director of Maintenance and Operations Scott Richardson.

Field Turf is used by NFL football teams like the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

“The most significant change in our field is that a 1-inch foam pad was installed under the new turf to reduce the risk of impact injuries; the turf itself is very similar.  We selected a natural cork infill material which does not retain as much heat as the old rubber material did,” said Richardson. “The field feels softer than previously and should be cooler to play on; we’ve also enhanced all the boundary lines to make it easier for referees to monitor regulations.”

The lifespan of the field is expected to be 15-20 years.