More space made for downvalley sports | VailDaily.com

More space made for downvalley sports

Sarah Mausolf
Gypsum, CO Colorado

GYPSUM, Colorado – Home turf will soon have a new meaning at Eagle Valley High School’s football field.

Eagle County school officials decided to replace natural grass field with sport turf at Hot Stuff stadium. The turf is part of a $2.2 million stadium renovation project the school board approved at its May 27 meeting, school board president Scott Green said.

Installing sport turf at the football field will cost about $700,000, he said.

School officials also plan to swap grass for turf on a field behind the town of Gypsum office, at the municipal sports complex, Green said.

Both high school and community sports teams use the field at the municipal complex. School officials expect that turf to cost another $700,000. Other improvements like moving the old bleachers from the high school stadium to the municipal complex field site will push the total cost of work there closer to $900,000, Green said.

Dale Collett, owner of Professional Turf Solutions in Durango, the company providing the turf, said he plans to complete installation of the surface at both fields by the first home high school football game on Aug. 29.

During the fall season, a bare patch used to appear in the middle of the grass football field at Eagle Valley High School’s stadium, school athletic director Cliff Zehring said.

“It would wear down in the middle and become unsafe,” he said. “It would turn to dirt. There would be bare patches of dirt on the field. It gets hard and if the kids take a fall and hit their head on that, they could have a concussion. Their cleats would not go into the dirt and they could twist ankles.”

But bare patches won’t be a problem with the new sport turf, Zehring said.

“It’s made to hold up under all kinds of conditions,” he said.

Unlike real grass, turf can withstand constant play by many different sports teams, Zehring said. That means more teams will be able to use the high school football field more often, he said.

Before, the field was mostly limited to high school football teams, he said. School gym classes also used it and occasionally middle school or pee-wee football teams played there, he said.

With the new turf, high school soccer and lacrosse teams also will be able to practice and play games there, he said. Previously, soccer and lacrosse teams used the field at the municipal sport complex.

Zehring said pee-wee and middle school football teams can play more games at the high school field, and more community sports teams will have access to it.

The municipal complex field will see more play as well, said officials with the Western Eagle County Metropolitan District.

Because high school lacrosse and soccer teams will use that field less often, it will be available for new sports teams that crop up as the Gypsum community grows, said Scott Ruff, manager of the Gypsum Recreation Center.

Existing community sports teams will also be able to spend more time playing games and practicing on the field, he said. Previously, community sports teams had to find other places to practice when varsity high school teams were using the field because the baseball and soccer fields overlapped, Ruff said.

And the other facilities available in the community were not always as well maintained, he said. The turf field will separate the varsity and youth fields so more than one team can use them simultaneously, Ruff said.

Along with allowing more teams to use the field without destroying it, the turf stands up to foul weather.

“We won’t be shut down as much for rain or snow or whatever,” said Steve Russell, director of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District.

Currently, when it rains or snows, officials often must cancel games because the field is covered with snow or too muddy, Russell said. However, the turf comes with a brush for removing snow.

In fact, Zehring expects the high school field to be ready for spring use a month earlier than with natural grass. With the grass field, staff had to wait for the field to melt, which usually happened between mid-March and April 1, he said. Plowing natural grass fields can cause ruts, several officials said.

Finally, officials say the turf requires less maintenance than real grass because it doesn’t need to be mowed or watered or painted with lines. Turf isn’t entirely maintenence-free though. Collett, of Professional Turf Solutions, said the surface needs to be cleaned with a brush the company provides. Also, the turf company plans to visit the field twice a year for a professional cleaning and checkup.

Collett said maintaining the turf costs about $2,000 to $3,000 each year. Justin Ritts, park supervisor for the town of Gypsum, didn’t have a breakdown handy on the cost of maintaining the natural grass municipal complex field, but he said the cost is at least three times that.

Although the Astroturf of yore was notorious for injuring athletes, Zehring said he expects the new turf to be as safe as grass.

“I think once the kids get out there, practice on it, get used to it, my concern for injures is the same as it was with the regular grass,” he said.

Collett said the turf’s polyethylene surface looks just like real, 2 1/2-inch blades of grass. It rests on a bed of rocks, not a sheet of concrete like with the old Astroturf, and a layer of rubber pellets are pushed into the turf to add springiness.

“It lends a layer of protection between the ground and the kids hitting the ground, Zehring said.

Although the school district is covering a majority of the turf costs, other groups are pitching in. The town of Gypsum this week agreed to contribute $150,000. Also, school officials plan to approach the rec district about putting up another $150,000.