Fields almost ready at Analy, El Molino, Casa Grande

Artificial surfaces should be ready soon for soccer season.|

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.”

And no more worries about puddles, divots or ankle-turning flaws in the field.

“We do have a bit of a gopher problem at El Molino. My groundskeepers won’t go mad,” she said.

“That’s the good thing about playing on turf, you have that consistent play across the whole field. Although, if you have the ability to staff and maintain a natural grass field, that would be the preference. But we just don’t have that ability.”

Casa Grande’s field is also a bit behind schedule, since the district reversed course mid-plan and changed the type of infill material after parents complained.

But its turf is down and the cork and sand infill is ready to be laid.

Such fields, by FieldTurf, one of the industry leaders, are expected to last at least eight years. Some last longer, depending on how many teams play on them.

There have been some complaints in other areas about the grass-like blades deteriorating prematurely or the carpets breaking down.

Locally, there haven’t been any problems.

In 2009, Petaluma installed a second artificial turf at the city-owned Lucchesi Community Center, which is used about 360 days a year. More recently, the city hired FieldTurf to provide three multi-use fields at East Washington park.

Assistant city manager Scott Brodhun said the city has been pleased with the fields’ durability at Lucchesi and elsewhere.

“The first-generation ones were warrantied for eight years,” Ellwood said. “A lot of those were pretty tapped out after that. But the fields that are in now are lasting longer.

“We anticipate probably 10 years of use before having to replace the surface.”

Petaluma High School will have its field refurbished soon, too. Coaches and parents at Maria Carrillo High in Santa Rosa have also expressed interest in getting an all-weather field installed, but so far no plans are set for that.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or On Twitter @loriacarter.

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