Analy High School athletic director Joe Ellwood stood in the middle of his school’s athletic field and considered the recent downpours.
“I was thinking, ‘This is beautiful,’ ” Ellwood said. “It hit me, if I was standing there at this point last year, I’d be ankle deep in mud.
“But to see this nice pristine field, it was really cool.”
The west county campus is one of three Sonoma County high schools whose new artificial turf fields are nearing completion and could see action soon.
Analy, El Molino and Casa Grande are all undergoing the change from grass to all-weather turf fields, mostly to get a handle on maintenance costs for natural fields.
As the overhauls got started last year, football and soccer teams had to play their “home” games on the road.
But soon, the fields will be playable for winter soccer and spring track and field competitions.
Analy’s field is almost done.
The old grass was ripped out and the ground dug out another foot deeper. Then new drainage systems and rock underlayment went in, and a cushion-like mat, then the fake grass carpet.
Lastly, a topping is spread over the green, grasslike plastic strands of turf.
In all three cases, district administrators switched to a cork and sand infill after initially choosing the more common ground-up rubber topping. A small group of parents concerned about potential health risks related to the recycled tire rubber pushed officials to reconsider the infill material.
Students at Analy eagerly watched the progress as heavy equipment roamed around their field for months, fenced off by chain link barriers.
“They started laying the turf on the Thursday prior to winter break,” Ellwood said. “When they left, there wasn’t much turf out there at all. They were just starting to roll it out. By the Tuesday we came back, they’d finished the majority of the field. It was neat to see how excited the kids were, lined up against the fence to see their new field.”
District maintenance chief Jennie Bruneman said some of the best new features for both Analy and El Molino are the school logos in the center of the green fields.
A big blue tiger paw reaches over the 50-yard line at Analy and a huge EM centers the new Lions field, enhancements paid for partially by booster club fundraising, Bruneman said.
At El Molino, progress is slightly behind Analy’s, but both are expected to be done next month.
“We were almost finished rocking, putting the rock drainage on the field, when we ran into problems with weather that delayed that,” Bruneman said. “There’s a pretty big soft spot we need to resolve before we rock.”
The turf will be delivered on Jan. 18, she said, and will take two to three weeks to lay out and connect all its components.
The bleachers are in at El Molino but the press box has yet to be built. The visitors-side bleacher foundation pad is being formed.
Finally, the running track that surrounds the field will be resurfaced.
“They did a beautiful job on the install,” Bruneman said. “It looks like it runs really smooth and really fast, which is what we want in a field.”