Pitman opens season on a revamped Joe Debely Stadium turf

Joe Debely Stadium turf replacement at Turlock High School.
Joe Debely Stadium turf replacement at Turlock High School.

When Pitman High School opens its 2018 football season Friday against Napa, it will be playing on new turf at Joe Debely Stadium.

The turf at the venerable field at Turlock High School, where both of the city’s public schools play their home games, has had a tumultuous recent past, struggling to pass a compaction test, which determines if the field is safe enough to play on.

Officials closed the field, installed in 2010, for several weeks in 2016 to replace the pellets used on the turf. But that was a short-term fix and the field underwent a major overhaul this summer.

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Joe Debely Stadium turf replacement at Turlock High School. Andrew Cabrera

According to Turlock High athletic director Mike Brown, “The pellets should have lasted 10 to 15 years before it would do anything. It didn’t even last six years.”

Over that time, the field got too hard to play on. But Turlock football coach James Peterson said the number of athlete injuries did not rise.

“If anything it was safer,” he said. “It was a leveled playing field for them to run on. It’s a lot better than the grass. Grass you get gophers, kids roll ankles on it, kids have more risk of their foot sticking resulting in injuries. It’s nice playing on turf because it’s leveled, there’s no divots or bumps like natural grass.”

After last year’s small “band aid” over the end zone, the Turlock Unified School District realized they needed to fix the big problem and not just patch it up.

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New artificial turf is being installed at Joe Debely Field at Turlock High School in Turlock, Calif., Friday, July 13, 2018. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

Peterson and the coaches from other sports that use the field offered their input. For Peterson’s part, he liked the turf’s ability to stay cooler than similar fields.

“There was input put in from different avenues, from the staff that maintains the field to the staff that utilizes it because not only do you have football out there, you also have soccer and track and field,” Peterson said. “It’s used for a lot of different things so I think pretty much everybody was asked to put in their piece of the pie.”