Coming apart at the seams
No longer on to-do list, replacing 10-year-old turf on football field scheduled for summer
Every so often the past couple of falls, a member of the grounds crew would sprint onto the field at Stocker Stadium during a timeout, kneel down and furiously pound away on the turf.
The artificial surface is literally coming apart at the seams.
That won’t happen next fall, when receivers will be running routes on brand-new turf.
The original artificial surface, installed in 2007, had an eight-year life expectancy. And that was with only one user.
“So say you put it in for Fruita (Monument) High School and say, ‘OK, Fruita, you use it for eight years, then you’re going to have to replace it,’ ’’ said Rob Schoeber, the director of Grand Junction Parks and Recreation, which oversees the sports complex at Lincoln Park. “All these special events, it’s gotten considerable community use and we’ve basically gotten 10 years out of it.”
Schoeber credited the staff at the complex in extending the life of the turf, which is now worn to the nub. The turf is regularly cleaned and brushed to prevent the infill from compacting.
“If things start to tear, they patch it, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s significant,” Schoeber said.
Starting Monday, the turf practice football field at Colorado Mesa will be removed and replaced, Athletic Director Tom Spicer said, just after the Mavericks concluded spring practice Saturday. A small area adjacent to the field that is a problem to keep grass growing because of overuse will also be turfed, Spicer said.
The practice field was turfed before Stocker, and gets plenty of traffic outside of football practice.
Conditioning workouts for all teams at CMU are conducted on the turf, along with some youth practices for various sports and summer football camps. If the baseball or softball fields are too wet, those teams work out on the practice field, located behind the Maverick Center.
The turf at Walker Field, used by soccer and lacrosse teams, was replaced three years ago.
The university and city went together on bids to replace both fields, and saved roughly $60,000, Schoeber said.
The Parks Improvement Advisory Board put up $200,000 of the $516,934 to replace approximately 90,000 square feet of turf at Stocker, which will include new goal posts and repairing some of the drainage system. The bid for Stocker came in nearly $100,000 under what he expected.
The city, CMU and School District 51 joined forces to apply for a $200,000 grant from the Mesa County Federal Mineral Lease District, which awards grants for infrastructure, construction and needs for public-use areas of communities affected by land minerals.
Although the football teams from the four District 51 high schools and CMU are the most noticeable users of the Stocker turf, Schoeber said there are more than 300 events at the football stadium every year.
Graduations, track meets, band competitions, the Special Olympics State Games and youth football also use Stocker, and every event wears down the fabric.
“A lot of people are surprised that the turf is a little over two inches thick. You fill it up with rubber and/or sand to build it up with cushion, and then you have (about one-third) of the turf, that is all worn out. Those are the big black spots, there’s no fiber left,” he said, likening the worn spots to heavy-traffic areas on lawns, like a dog that wears out the grass by running alongside the fence.
Opponents of artificial turf point to the heat generated by the crumb rubber infill, potential health hazards and increased chances of injuries.
“There’s a lot of talk about the safety of the crumb rubber and (FieldTurf) has done extensive research,” Schoeber said. “There’s no tie to cancer-causing agents from the crumb rubber. One of our priorities was to make sure it’s safe.
“It’s hot, we get that. There were some different systems we looked at instead of rubber, one they put in crushed cork. It’s a cooler product, but you give up drainage and it tended to bind together, so the playability wasn’t as good as with the rubber and sand.”
FieldTurf has had several independent studies conducted in regards to injuries on its surface compared to natural grass fields, showing fewer concussions, ligament injuries, ankle sprains and severe injuries on FieldTurf across several sports, including high school and college football and soccer.
A four-year study of NFL anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries, conducted by the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, looked at ACL injuries among NFL players in practice and games from 2010-2013. The study showed of the 219 ACL injuries in the NFL during that time, 137 occurred during games. Of those, 74 were on natural grass fields, 63 on artificial surface.
Other studies show increased chance for injury as the turf ages and wears down, so it was imperative to replace the surface now.
The installation date hasn’t been finalized, but it will be after the Special Olympics Summer Games in early June.
The sports complex has a half-million visitors annually, including community events, high school and CMU athletics, the Grand Junction Rockies and the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, and with the heavy use on the turf, Schoeber said, “it became a priority in a hurry.”