Montgomery High School's football field closed for replacement

Montgomery High School’s 14-year-old turf field was abruptly closed Thursday night because of safety concerns, a move that will force the football team to play its postseason on the road and will cause the boys and girls soccer teams to find new places to start their seasons next week.

Principal Randy Burbank sent an email to school staff and students’ families, alerting them to the immediate closure:

“Turf experts have determined that the Montgomery High turf needs to be replaced immediately. As a result, we are closing the turf field until replacement to minimize potential injuries to our student athletes,” it read.

The closure comes at a critical time for ongoing fall sports and winter sports set to begin practice next week.

The announcement sent Athletic Director Dean Haskins scrambling to find new fields his teams can compete and practice on.

A grass field at the southeast Santa Rosa school will be used for soccer tryouts next week, he said, and he is exploring whether Slater Middle School, less than two miles away, or Galvin Community Park, about four miles away, can be used for practices.

“They most likely are going to have to play all their soccer games on the road,” he said.

The varsity football team was supposed to have a home football game Friday against Healdsburg, but had a bye because the Greyhounds suspended their football team two weeks into the regular season. The junior varsity traveled to Healdsburg to play Friday.

The varsity team finished first, at 4-0, in the new North Bay League-Redwood Division and is expected to learn its postseason future on Sunday at the North Coast Section seeding meeting.

Haskins said Santa Rosa High School has agreed to allow Montgomery to use its field for a playoff game, depending on the Panthers’ schedule.

Vikings boys and girls soccer, both among the most successful programs in the area, start practice next week with games to begin in December - when grass fields can become muddy, messy and unsafe when the rains begin.

The field, installed in 2004, has drawn complaints for years from coaches and others as it has deteriorated.

Turf fields generally have a lifespan between eight and 14 years, depending on the product. Many in Sonoma County are being replaced as they reach the end of their useful life, while others have undergone repairs to eke a few more years out of them.

In 2016, Windsor High had to move most of its football season to the road when its field was also deemed unsafe. About two months later, it reopened after the manufacturer replaced the cushiony “crumb-rubber” filling atop the fake grass.

Montgomery’s Haskins acknowledged the timing of the field’s closure wasn’t ideal. He fielded multiple calls from concerned parents and others about it on Friday.

“In the short term, it’s a pain in the butt. In the long term, it’s exciting that new turf is coming,” he said. “The timing is really never going to be perfect for anyone.”

School officials have been seeking funds for a new field for a couple of years, knowing it needed replacement, he said.

He said he believes money for a new field will come from bond money the district disburses. He estimated the field will be playable in 8 to 10 weeks.

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