By Andrew Lwowski for wranglernews.com
High schools across the Tempe Union High School District are upgrading their traditional grass fields to coconut-infused artificial turf, a million-dollar project designed to reduce maintenance while providing a softer, vastly improved playing surface.
Corona del Sol is the latest school to undergo the transition, and the renovation is coming down to the wire — just in time for the Aztecs’ Friday, Sept. 3 home opener against rival Mountain Pointe.
Roxanne Perrin, Corona’s vice principal and athletic director, said that field reconstruction began in May and is to be finished by Aug. 31, allowing the team time — if only a short amount — to practice on the new surface and get used to it before the first game.
Throughout the four-month process, crews worked long shifts, sometimes 12 to 14 hours a day, to complete the project on time.
“I’ve been coming in here all summer long, and when I go and check out the field, it looks like they are just moving dirt piles back and forth,” Perrin said. “But they had to take dirt out to put in conduit for electric, irrigation and drainage.
“They cover that up, then there’s the process of leveling the field and tamping it down. Then they add more material because it has to be a certain height. Then they string-line it to make sure it’s level, because the field is crowned in the middle so it will drain just slightly.
“They place a black cloth down, then a padded layer and then the actual turf.”
The surface is topped with filaments of coconut and cork. These elements, explained Perrin, help keep the temperature of the field down as well as naturally absorbing impact and moisture.
The field still must be watered to keep it cool, but there will no longer be a need for pesticides, fertilizer or irrigation.
In addition, a new wireless scoreboard is to be installed behind the south upright, although as of Monday afternoon it was not yet up.
In 2020, Perrin noted, Desert Vista and McClintock high schools had their fields redone.
“I was on DV’s field last year,” Perrin said. “It’s beautiful. It’s soft, there’s a lot of traction, there’s a lot of give for the players. And it’s not like running on a super hard surface.”
The cost of the work is being paid through TUHSD-budgeted funds.
While football opens this week, football is not the only beneficiary of this project, according to Perrin.
“The thing about the turf field is that it’s going to benefit our whole campus,” she said. “It’s football, but it’s also boys’ and girls’ soccer. It’s also going to be nice for track and field … they do all kinds of warmups and static exercises in the middle, so they’ll benefit, as well.”
Corona’s band program also will be able to practice on the new turf.
Opening of the new field allows for ample practice space without the possibility of damaging the surface for games.
“As far as practice goes, we have that full turf field. So, varsity can practice on the turf field and JV and freshman (players) can practice on the remaining two fields at the same time,” Perrin said.
This field also will allow for sports into the winter and spring to enjoy an improved playing experience. Normally with traditional sod, the center of the field becomes worn to dirt from the constant beating by football players, and by the time soccer and track and field seasons come along, it is completely worn and mostly dirt.
Jeff Lambert, a senior wide receiver-linebacker for the Aztecs football team, said he and his teammates are excited.
“It will definitely be a big upgrade for us because last year we played and, like, half of our field was dirt. So it will save a lot of rocks getting on the field and just unnecessary scratches,” Lambert said.
Lambert, like many football players up to the NFL level, said he loves the new-generation of forgiving artificial turf.
“It almost feels like you could stick your foot in deeper, like you have more traction,” he said.
Formal presentation of the newly upgraded field will take place Sept. 3 when Corona hosts rival Mountain Pointe in the football season opener.