Janesville29.9°

Some parents are suggesting a change of turf at Monterey Stadium

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
October 30, 2007
— Monterey Stadium’s field is hallowed ground to Janesville high school football faithful.

But like any field that gets pounded by people in cleats, it develops bare patches and depressions over the course of a season. Nature can make matters worse.


“When we get a real bad rain, it could ruin the field for the rest of the year,” said Kevin Porter, the school district’s athletics director.


And this year, rains combined with root-eating grubs made things particularly bad.


Solution?


How about artificial turf?


A number of parents have asked the district about the possibility, and Porter said he has investigated it.


But it’s unlikely to happen unless a private donor or group of donors comes up with the money, Porter said.


“It’s a matter of coming up with about a half million (dollars) to get it done,” Porter said.


Parents noticed Middleton’s new artificial turf when Craig High School played there this year, Porter said. They also noticed the artificial turf in Kenosha where both Parker and Craig both played playoff games on the same field the same day.


Parker High School football Coach Joe Dye said two playoff games could never happen on the same day at Monterey unless it converted to artificial turf.


The durability of the artificial turf might mean that youth football teams could play at Monterey, Dye added.


And the Gladiators, too.


The school board turned down a request for the semipro Gladiators football team to play at Monterey this year. Fears were that the adults would tear up the field so much that it would have been unsafe when the high school teams used it.


“If you have (artificial) turf, you eliminate that problem,” Porter said.


Phil Merrick, president of the Craig Football Booster Club, said he has heard from parents who have gone so far as to research the options.


Merrick suggested the bottom line would be savings in maintenance versus the cost of replacing the artificial turf when it wears out.


Another factor is the ability to let many more teams and other groups use the field.


Merrick noted that freshman and junior varsity teams were kept off the Monterey field most of this season in order to preserve the grass for varsity games. That disappointed the players.


“You like to have the kids play down there, you bet, and normally it’s a good field,” Merrick said.


But this was an abnormal year, said groundskeeper John Fiedler.


Grubs from Japanese beetles and June bugs ate the roots, stripping the grass of its anchor, Fiedler said. So when a player dug in or pivoted on the grass, he tore out clumps of it, leaving bare ground.


Fiedler re-seeded parts of the field during the season and got healthy grass to grow over grub-ravaged areas. But the highly trafficked midfield has large bare patches.


Those patches offer opportunities to slide or trip, causing injuries.


“To me, it’s a safety issue,” Fiedler said.


Not that artificial turf is injury-free. A quick Internet search turns up numerous comparisons of grass to artificial turf. At least one found that players are injured on both surfaces, but the kinds of injuries are different.


Porter said most universities and pro teams use the FieldTurf brand. He said it’s so similar to grass that players can use the same cleats they use on grass. Players needed special shoes on older versions of artificial turf.


From a player’s point of view, “turf or grass, I don’t think it makes any difference as long as you’re taking care of your field,” Dye said.


So if a person or group offered to pay, would the district be interested?


“Absolutely,” Porter said.



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