Denfeld News

Oct. 12, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

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 the field.”

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,” he said.

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.”

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