The Turlock Unified School District isn’t the only MondoTurf client dealing with a deteriorating product and stadium closure.
Windsor High, north of Santa Rosa, also has shut down its stadium after failing a compaction test.
“It’s not safe to use,” Windsor coach Tom Kirkpatrick told The Press Democrat.
On Tuesday evening, district officials were forced to shut down Joe Debely Stadium because the field, which is shared by Turlock and Pitman high schools, was deemed unplayable in two separate compaction tests.
“Recent tests and attempts to recondition the turf have been unsuccessful so a decision to immediately close the field was made until corrective action have been completed expeditiously,” reads a statement on the Turlock High website.
Turlock Unified conducted a compaction test in April, according to Turlock High athletic director Mike Brown. Representatives with MondoTurf ran their own test in July and then returned Saturday with “the miracle worker,” Brown said, referring to a machine that “fluffed” the turf with a fork-like instrument.
MondoTurf project manager Robert Martin has not returned a phone call.
The closure comes just days ahead of the high school football season. Pitman High was scheduled to host Downey at Joe Debely Stadium in a highly-anticipated season-opener between two of The Bee’s top-10 large-school teams.
Instead, Pitman athletic director David Walls said the Pride will host the junior varsity and varsity games at Gregori High’s Don Lanphear Stadium Friday. Thursday’s freshman game has been moved to Hughson High.
Turlock Unified isn’t the only Northern California school district with turf trouble.
On Monday, Windsor Unified learned its MondoTurf field at Windsor High also was unplayable. The news hit like a “big smack in the nose,” said Kirkpatrick, who has shifted Friday’s season-opener to Cardinal Newman High in Santa Rosa.
Windsor is located about 10 miles north of Santa Rosa and is one of four California clients listed on MondoTurf’s website, along with Elk Grove High and City College of San Francisco.
In the case of Turlock Unified and Windsor High, the pellets that help soften impact have deteriorated, essentially hardening the fields. Brown said the pellets should have lasted “10 to 15 years before it would do anything. It didn’t even last six years.”
“They have to suction out all those pebbles that have disintegrated and put new pebbles of rubber on it to soften it up,” Kirkpatrick said. “Right now it’s hard ... like old AstroTurf.”
Windsor’s turf was installed in 2009 at a cost of $2 million. One year later, Turlock Unified debut a modernized Joe Debely Stadium, a $3.6 million project that included an all-weather track. The city of Turlock used $2.8 million in redevelopment funds to fast-track the construction.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Ed Felt, the former Deputy Superintendent of Business Services for the Turlock Unified School District. Felt, now the Modesto Metro Conference commissioner, was a part of the team that researched and oversaw the implementation of the artificial surfaces.
Felt said district officials visited four stadiums in Northern California, each under contract with a different turf vendor. Their tour included UC Davis, Patterson, Atwater and Elk Grove.
MondoTurf separated itself with its eco-friendly infill.
“We looked at four different products, met with MondoTurf and looked at all the pros and cons,” said Felt, now retired from education. “We thought this was the best product. ... What we liked about it was the transparent pellet. They felt it played cooler.”
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