Work commences on turf replacement

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks The grass at Clovis High School’s football field at Leon Williams Stadium is being replaced by artificial turf. The work is scheduled to be done before the start of the 2008 football season.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis High football coaching staff members admit it’s odd to see a hole in the ground at Leon Williams Stadium with the first home game of the 2008 season less than two months away.

What’s missing for the moment is green — the color of the artificial turf slated to replace what was a grass surface at the Wildcats’ home field.

“It does make you a little nervous, but the company should be done on time,” Clovis assistant football coach Darren Kelley said.

ProGrass of Pittsburgh is planning to break ground Monday, and aims to have the approximate 80,000 square feet of surface in Clovis by the end of the month.

From there, ProGrass vice president of sales and marketing Bob Thomas said 15-21 days should be enough to complete the work, with no downtime required.

“As soon as we walk off the field (it’s ready),” Thomas said of the work from the six-year-old company. “We have actually walked off at 7:15 for a 7:30 start. Once we’re off it, you’re on it.”

Kelley said the coaching staff is assuming the field will be ready sometime between Aug. 11 and Aug. 17, and they aren’t worried about adjustment time before the team’s Aug. 29 home opener against Alamogordo.

“I don’t think you’ve got to practice on it a ton,” Kelley said. “It plays a lot like grass. It will be nice to get some practice on it.”

The surface was changed at the stadium as a way to save on maintenance costs. Athletic Director Brian Stacy has said the school pays nearly $85,000 annually for maintenance of the grass that used to inhabit Leon Williams Stadium, and the athletic department made it a football-only to limit wear and tear.

The artificial surface, Stacy said, would eliminate water and maintenance costs and allow other clubs (soccer, band) to use the field.

“It gives a ton of advantages, first in the amount of events you can host,” Thomas said. “With natural grass, one bad rain or a few inclement days and your turf is in really bad shape.”

The field cost ranges from $450,000 to $650,000, Thomas said, depending on the amount of specialization.

“The only thing that would be specific,” Stacy said, “will be the Wildcat logo on the field.”

Stacy estimated the Wildcat logo would be about 48 feet wide, placed between the 42-yard lines.

Clovis is one of ProGrass’ first forays into New Mexico — the company is also resurfacing the Wool Bowl in Roswell this summer. Kelley figures being one of ProGrass’ New Mexico debuts will mean quality work.

“They want to do a good job because they know people are going to see it,” Kelley said. “If they don’t do a good job, people around here aren’t going to use them.”

Stacy said if there are doubts about the field being ready, Clovis can open the season at Alamogordo and hold off the home opener until Sept. 19 against La Cueva.

Fast facts:

• ProGrass has been in business for six years.

• Regarding recent reports of lead in artificial turf surfaces, Thomas said the Synthetic Turf Council has had doctors and scientists determine little risk to athletes.

“The bottom line is a 50-pound child would have to eat 100 pounds of fiber to even have a potential to absorb lead,” Thomas said.

• Clients of ProGrass include The University of Lousiana-Lafayette (football) Troy State University (baseball).

• Thomas doesn’t like to single out specific fields, because the company wants to treat every customer as its most important. But he does enjoy the story of Barrow, Alaska. Located at the northernmost point in North America, the Whalers started a football program in 2006 on a makeshift dirt field, and ProGrass built a blue-and-gold surface first used Aug. 17, 2007.

“We’ve made it a reality for these kids who have no grass.”