Park-Based High School Football Turf Deemed Unsafe for New Season

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Portland (Ore.) Public Schools and Portland Parks & Recreation officials announced over the weekend that the Grant field — located in Grant Park, adjacent to the high school campus — is not safe to play on.

An outside contractor gave the 10-year-old synthetic turf field a failing grade for organized sports use, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, citing a press release the Portland parks department sent Saturday evening. The same evening, Grant High School principal James McGee emailed parents about the closure, saying, “we will not be able to use the Grant Bowl for our fall sports.”

“Student safety is my number one priority, whether in our hallways or on our fields,” McGee wrote in the email. “I know many will be frustrated by this news, but we also cannot risk a possible injury to any of our student athletes.”

As reported by OPB's Rob Manning, the “Grant Bowl” is an oval-shaped part of Grant Park in Northeast Portland. Within a tall berm, the oval includes an all-weather track and the turf field, which is regularly used for football and soccer by school teams and the community. Parks officials clarified in an email to OPB that the track can still be used. The field isn’t available for school use but will remain open to the public.

Parks officials said the closure is due to the turf field coming to the end of its 8-to-10-year life span, and results from heavy use with inadequate maintenance investment from the city, which owns the field and the surrounding park. According to parks officials, the Grant field failed three safety tests in the past 10 months: last November and December 2022, and again in May 2023. Efforts were made after each test to make repairs, but that was not enough to fully restore the field to safe playing conditions, according to officials.

Portland parks officials note that the Grant field is just one of a number of deteriorating parks facilities in need of maintenance.

“Due to insufficient maintenance funding, one in five PP&R assets will fail over the next 15 years without new resources,” Portland Parks & Recreation said in its release. “PP&R’s current maintenance backlog is $600 million and has also resulted in the failure of Columbia Pool and light poles in several neighborhood parks.”

Meanwhile, with the start of the 2023 high school football season mere weeks away, Portland Public Schools officials are trying to figure out where Grant’s student-athletes can practice and compete.

“There are active conversations taking place between our central office team, athletic staff, and Portland Parks & Recreation (owner of the Bowl) to find workable solutions,” McGee wrote.

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