The Pitman High football team has a lot more to worry about than just putting in a good performance for their season opening game on Friday, as the team now has to find a place to play it. Pitman High School Athletic Director David Walls, along with the Turlock High Athletic Director and Turlock Youth Football president, were notified on Tuesday afternoon that Joe Debely Stadium is unavailable for use until further notice due to the weakened condition of the turf.
"Recent tests and attempts to recondition the turf have been unsuccessful so a decision to immediately close the field was made until corrective action has been completed expeditiously," said Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Trevethan in a released statement on Tuesday. "School and community athletic programs were notified today and we will continue to provide the necessary support to create alternative plans to accommodate athletes and athletic programs. TUSD takes great pride in providing quality facilities to our youth and community."
Artificial turf was installed at Joe Debely Stadium in August 2010, during renovations of the stadium.
The closure of the field will most affect the Pitman High and Turlock High football programs, which share Joe Debely Stadium as their home fields, and the eight youth football teams under Turlock Youth Football that use the field on Saturdays.
TYF President Joe Lewis said he will be making calls to find a place for the youth teams to play on Saturday.
"It's a pretty big deal," said Lewis. "We have to deal with it and the high schools do too."
While Turlock High isn't scheduled to play at home until Sept. 2, Pitman High was supposed to host Downey High on Friday night in the first week of prep football competition.
“I put a call into Downey to see if maybe we might be able to host the game there on a short notice but the big problem for us is getting the game covered, the logistics. It really hurts us because we lose a home game and it's a lot of income," said Walls.
According to Walls and THS Athletic Director Mike Brown, the school district knew there was a problem with the field in April but the company contracted to maintain the field didn't evaluate the conditions until July. An attempt to fix the problem on Saturday failed, leading to Tuesday's announcement that the field was unavailable.
Turlock and Pitman high athletic directors plan to meet with the Sac-Joaquin Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school athletic programs in the state, to try and figure out possible game rescheduling.
“We would have liked to get a heads up some time ago so that we could make some contingencies on what we would do and possibilities of what we could do. (Now we're) under the gun and have to take care of it," said Walls.
— Journal reporters Eddie Ruiz and Frankie Tovar contributed to this report.