“Anything with a shell, basically,” engineer Tyler Meno warned representatives of local sports groups Tuesday. “Any foreign object you want to keep off these fields.”
The tiny, sharp edges of sunflower seed shells dropped by snacking athletes can do serious damage to artificial turf, Meno said, and he added chewing gum, Gatorade and metal cleats to the list of dangers.
“Metal cleats on that field, it’s going to get torn up real bad,” he said.
Meno, a contractor for the Canada-based company Beyond The Turf, leaves Kodiak today after a month spent supervising the installation of artificial surfaces on the football field at Joe Floyd Track and Field and baseball infield at Baranof Field. He met with Parks and Rec staff and user groups for a final briefing about upkeep of the new surfaces.
“You guys definitely have a spectacular product and it’s going to be around a long time,” Meno said.
Parks and Rec director Ian Fulp said members of the public need to know how to treat the new surfaces, too. Signs will warn people not to take pets, bicycles or motorized vehicles onto the fields. No stakes can be driven into the surface for temporary shelters, and tables and chairs will have to be on protective mats.
Kodiak High School principal Bill Watkins would like district physical education teachers to get training on proper use of the surfaces. Fulp hopes that training will then spread to the students and their parents.
Even with the best intentions of human users, foreign objects will inevitably make their way onto the fields. Wind and birds will bring garbage, and nearby spruce trees will drop sticky needles.
Fulp, who retires from Parks and Rec at the end of September, has been studying up on the special maintenance equipment needed instead of the mowers and seeders used for natural turf. The package from Beyond The Turf included some basic pieces, but Fulp expects the department will want to purchase more.
Meno strongly recommended building a dedicated storage shed near the fields to keep maintenance equipment clean.
Caring for the large artificial surfaces will be a new experience for Roger David, the park’s head maintenance supervisor. He looks forward to tending more useable sports fields without struggling to remove endless supplies of standing water.
“We’re very interested to see how we’re going to start doing this, David said. “We’re ready.”
KHS baseball coach Rick Langfitt has no doubt the new surfaces will prove worth the trouble of their upkeep.
“There’s not going to be a game canceled ever again,” he said. “We’re very excited about having a dry, smooth, clean field to play on.”
With the frequently poor, muddy condition of the former dirt infield, Langfitt said, half the time it didn’t seem worth playing the game, and about once every season a game had to be canceled entirely.
Now, however, “We’ll have as nice an infield as anyone in the state,” he said.
Langfitt agrees with Fulp and Watkins on the importance of educating the community about caring for their new recreational asset.
“Everybody’s just going to have to do their part,” he said.
The public’s first opportunity to see the football field in action comes Sept. 15, when the Bears host Soldotna.
Before that, Norm Hubbard of Ono Construction has to put the finishing touches on the field and the surrounding areas. He expects it will take about another week to paint lane stripes on the six-lane running track, finish the jumping pits and set up the bleachers.
He also needs a day without wind to properly plumb the goal posts.