The football field at Tiger Stadium is getting an upgrade.
The 10-year-old artificial turf is being replaced, and workers from Carter Construction of Fort Worth are in the middle of that process now.
Not only does having an artificial surface attract money-making playoff games as a neutral site for other schools, school officials noted that it eliminates the need for watering, fertilizing, mowing and other chores necessary to maintain a grass football field.
The savings in water use alone is stunning.
Between the turf on the high school football, softball and baseball fields, the GRISD saves approximately 10 million gallons of water per year, according to Superintendent Wayne Rotan.
The baseball and softball fields had turf installed in 2013. All in all, the artificial surface on the three fields was estimated to have paid for itself over the 10-year period, Rotan said.
The field, across from Glen Rose High School on Stadium Drive, first had artificial turf installed in 2007. After 10 years of football playing, band marching and all sorts of weather pounding the turf, school officials decided last year to make the move. The GRISD Board of Trustees approved the action with their vote on Nov. 28.
“The turf had just become worn, and it was time to replace it,” Rotan said last week. “We had played 10 football seasons on that turf, and had marching contests. UV from sunlight breaks those fibers down.
“We will have a great playing surface 365 days a year. In the fall, a lot of fields get worn out. And we will have very little maintenance.”
Selling the idea to the board was tougher in 2007.
“It was a harder sell to the board of trustees at that time,” Rotan said. “There was a lot more dissension because it was new. Since then, I think everybody’s seen the payback in it.
“The board had a lot of foresight. They didn’t want to be scratching to have enough money, so they made sure they had enough money. We have funds dedicated to certain projects.”
Rotan said the cost of the monofilament “TruPlay” surface and installation is $338,000, and will be paid in installments as the work is completed.
Technology in turf surfaces has been upgraded in the last 10 years, and as a result player safety is also going to be improved, Rotan noted.
This time, a shock-absorbing composite rubber pad — called an “e-layer” — approximately one-half inch thick is being installed underneath the TruPlay turf — providing a safer landing for the football players. The base is crushed rock, and all of the layers are porous — preventing puddles from forming during heavy rainfall.
The e-layer is expected to last 30 years, Rotan said.
“It will make it much a softer and safer surface,” Rotan said. “Player safety is first and foremost on our minds. I think we’ll have one of the top playing surfaces in the entire state. I know we’ll have the safest field in the state.”
The old turf did have a 2-inch layer of tiny rubber beads. Suction equipment was used to retain as many of those rubber beads as possible for use underneath the new surface as well.
Rotan said that this turf surface is denser than the original one and should last even longer. Both had eight-year warranties.
“We got more years out of ours than most, and I expect this one to do the same,” Rotan said. “On the new one, we’ll probably get 12 to 13 years out of it because the product is so much better. The board has set aside enough money to replace all the fields at least one more time.”
But much of the preparation cost for the original artificial turf was not necessary this time because the drainage and other components underneath are already in place.
“The first time, they had to remove dirt and provide for drainage,” Rotan said. “So it’s about half the cost of the first one. The base and drainage are still good. It drains well.”
The Glen Rose football team played only three of its 13 games last season on real grass, but all of its scheduled matchups for 2017 will be on turf. The only school in the Glen Rose football district (8-4A) that does not have a turf field is Hillsboro.
“It will be nice to have that new e-layer because of more cushion, and safety for the athletes,” Glen Rose head football coach Cliff Watkins said. “We’re looking forward to getting back out and working on it again.”
The Tigers played Sweetwater in the third round of the 2016 football playoffs on Graham High School’s relatively new artificial turf — which has the e-layer cushion underneath.
“We host all kinds of playoff games in every sport because of our facilities,” Watkins said. “This should bring in more football games to Glen Rose.”
Visitors who attend the playoff games here bring money to the community when they eat meals in Glen Rose or stay overnight in hotels, Rotan noted.
Rotan stated that the GRISD takes in 10 percent of the gate receipts when other schools use the fields for playoff games. They also pay a rental fee — $2,000 per game for Class 4A schools and larger, and $1,500 for Class 3A and smaller.
Watkins said that when he was the head coach at Eastland, the grass field there took valuable time to prepare and maintain.
“At Eastland, we had to paint the field,” Watkins said. “It’s a time-saver for everybody. For spring drills it will be ready, and for seven-on-seven. We’re ready to start breaking it in.”
The new turf is delivered in rolls of five-yard-wide strips, ready-to-install. Yard lines and numbers come from the manufacturer — already in place before they are sewn together after being placed on the field. The Glen Rose logos in the end zones and at midfield will be sewn in once the turf is in place.
Rotan said he expects that the installation will be completed by March 1.
The board of trustees also voted to approve purchase and installation of a new scoreboard at the football field. The existing one has been in use since the 1980s, Rotan noted. The new scoreboard will use LED lighting — and use about one-tenth of the electricity required by the traditional 100-watt light bulbs in the old scoreboard.