Oct. 12, 2008
Turf troubles plague PSS
By Rick Weegman
Halfway through its expected life span, the artificial
turf at Public Schools Stadium is showing so much wear and tear
that Duluth school officials have asked the manufacturer to make
repairs before the surface’s warranty expires.
In the past two years, yellow soccer markings
that originally were woven into fabric and then glued onto the turf
have been uprooted, causing a potential safety issue for football
and soccer players. A stopgap measure — patching the lines
with a heavy-duty adhesive called Gorilla Glue, a manufacturer-recommended
product — didn’t keep the markings in place.
That prompted Kerry Leider, property manager for
the Duluth school district, to ask the turf manufacturer and installer
— Sprinturf — to fix the problems under warranty. The
first game was played on the turf in 2001, and Leider said Sprinturf
set the life span of the $300,000 field at 10 to 15 years, though
the warranty on the lines expires after this year.
“We want to make sure we get the full life
out of this field,” said Leider, who informed Sprinturf that
he wants the repairs completed by mid-July and was told that they
would be covered under warranty.
“Once we resolve this yellow-line issue,
we’re expecting another seven or eight years of life out of
A school district representative said that there
is no money set aside for major stadium renovations, but that rehabbing
it would be part of the district’s long-range planning. Business
director Bill Hanson said the district uses five-year plans to budget
for capital repairs, and expects the turf to be part of those discussions
eventually. Hanson said a small amount of money is set aside from
revenue-generating events, mostly for equipment-related items, and
isn’t nearly enough to replace the field.
“Relative to a larger amount of money, like
replacing the field itself, we’ll have to deal with that as
we get closer to the end of the [turf’s] life span,”
The stadium, adjacent to Duluth Denfeld High School,
has seen more than 200 football and soccer games and practices this
fall alone. The heavy use, and what the district acknowledges has
been a lack of maintenance, has caused the middle section of turf
to erode, exposing a black-rubber appearance underneath.
Some district personnel complained that a new
artificial turf groomer sat idle for months. But Leider says that’s
because the grooming machine rips up the yellow lines — especially
those most affected around midfield and the penalty-box areas —
making the problem worse.
“Once we get those yellow lines repaired,
we will be able to resume regular, aggressive grooming of the field,”
Leider said. “We had to cut back on that because those lines
were coming up. Once we can get into the grooming again, people
generally are satisfied with the turf.”
Since the Minnesota State High School League adopted
a policy two years ago that all quarterfinal football games be played
on artificial turf, the status of PSS has grown. The stadium has
hosted several state playoff games and is the main site for area
football and soccer section finals.
For schools such as Section 7A winner Chisholm
and Section 7 Nine-Man champion Littlefork-Big Falls — which
played state quarterfinal games there last Friday night —
it’s a big deal to play at PSS.
For the local high school teams that call PSS
home — Central, Denfeld and East, which all play their home
games there — the field allows them to play in November without
confronting ankle-deep mud that could be unsafe for players.
“The surface has been consistent. For the
amount of use that it gets, I think it’s in exceptional shape.
It was a great decision to go with this type of surface,”
Duluth East football coach Joe Hietala said, adding he had no complaints
about it this season.
As for the future, he said: “I don’t
know about seven more years, but time will tell.”
Denfeld football coach Frank Huie said he hopes
improved maintenance will ensure a longer life for the field.
“I love it; I just hope that somebody put
a plan in place … [for] monies for the upkeep, since it’s
such a gorgeous facility,” he said. “If they didn’t,
shame on them.”