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Turf Installation Mishaps Create Headaches for Two High Schools

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Copyright 2013 Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne)
August 28, 2013 Wednesday
LOCAL SPORTS; Main Sports; Pg. 8-28 SPTS turf wars riley column::2
700 words
Field of nightmares
Alex Riley

dre

Written 8-27 for 8-28

Field of nightmares

Turf installation at East and South has caused way too many headaches.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Especially when it is not installed.

Just after school let out in May, work began on putting in turf at Cheyenne South stadium and the new Okie Blanchard sports complex at Cheyenne East.

Laramie County School District 1 was using progressive thinking when it came to sports. With football, soccer and track competitions taking place at all three of its high school stadiums, installing turf was a necessity.

An example: By the end of the 2011 soccer season, midfield at Cheyenne Central's Riske Field was nothing but sand. Installing turf means that never will happen again.

The original plan was to turf the three schools over five years with a year in between each project. Then it became doing a school a year over three years. Finally, surplus funding let the district do Riske Field last summer and the other two now.

Great intentions.

Poor execution.

As things stand now, South's field is not finished. And there are only 10 days until it hosts Central for football.

East's field is also not done. That has forced the Thunderbirds to practice at Miller Elementary.

The team isn't practicing on the current Okie Blanchard Field in hopes of keeping the grass alive. It often becomes a dirt pit by the end of soccer.

Todd Smith of Academy Turf Sports in Englewood, Colo., is overseeing the installations.

He says a rainy summer, winds and hail have slowed down work at both schools, but particularly South. The glue used to hold the field in place can't dry if the air is moist.

And the process at East often is dictated by what area construction crews are working on that day.

Instead of building a stadium and then installing turf, the East stadium will go up around the turf. Its old practice fields are where the new Okie Blanchard complex will be, forcing the team to bus to Miller.

Smith said another crew was on its way up on Tuesday to help get the installations moving.

It's not enough.

David Bartlett is LCSD1's assistant superintendent of support operations. He said the district always has had a target for completion just before that Sept. 6 game at South. But the Bison had intended to hold midnight practice there on Aug. 12 to kick off the football season.

Whether the completion date was changed because installation had to be slowed down or there wasn't proper communication from LCSD1 to the sports teams is unclear.

The stadium construction did force East to turn home games with Central and South into road contests this year.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association creates the schedule with teams playing five home games one season and inversing the slate the next year. Due to the moves, East will host six next season.

If South's home opener with Central has to be moved, it will be a home game for the Indians. That also could result in Central playing just three home games next fall, thanks to the rearranged schedule.

Construction and weather might have slowed down the work, but there should have been a plan for such possibilities.

South's field should be ready in time for its home opener, and East's shouldn't be far behind. It better be: East won't have the use of Miller in a few weeks due to flag football. It needs somewhere to practice.

This clearly was not well planned.

With school already in session and the season just days away, South's field should have had top priority. Bartlett agrees but says he believes the stadium will be done by Thursday, allowing the Bison a walk-through then.

The turf at East is expected to be done shortly thereafter. The Thunderbirds will practice there and play their home games in Okie.

In truth, both facilities should have been planned to be done sooner.

Bringing turf to all three high schools will help the teams that use the fields. Of that there is no doubt.

But until the rubber pellets are put down and the last yard maker is sewn in, it's simply a big green headache.

Alex Riley

is a sportswriter for the WyoSports Cheyenne bureau. Follow him on Twitter at @alexyrileysports or find him on Facebook at facebook.com/alexriley.sportswriter. Contact him at ariley@wyosports.net

August 28, 2013

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