Snowfall buries high hopes, exposes complexity of turf issues at Gardner Field
Steamboat Springs — The hopes and expectations of an “all-weather” field were high.
The Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team is scheduled to begin its season in one week with a home game against Columbine. But the snow that began falling just as the team started its Tuesday practice on a partially cleared Gardner Field has continued to cause headaches for the squad.
Now, coach Bob Hiester is trying to schedule outdoor practices in Grand Junction to make sure the team is ready for a game that he thinks will be canceled. This is despite the high school field’s new artificial turf surface that was installed last summer at a cost of about $500,000, which included private donations and money from the city’s half-cent sales tax for education.
But just because the grass is fake doesn’t mean the field always will be in playing condition, School Board member Pat Gleason said.
“I think people had overly optimistic expectations,” said Gleason, who was instrumental in developing the field’s clearing plan. “This is not like vacuuming the carpet.”
Gleason said he had made planning arrangements with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. slope maintenance director David Crisler to donate the one-time use of a grooming machine and driver to clear the field at the beginning of the spring season.
“We spent a lot of time talking about snow removal, and the only option – the only thing that could move that much snow the distance we needed it moved – was the (grooming machine),” Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich said.
From Sunday to Tuesday, Dave Hudspeth cleared Gardner Field using a large snowblower mounted to the front of a Ski Corp. grooming machine. The objective was to blow snow over the north fence into the stands or the south fence onto the auxiliary field. One of the issues at the field is a lack of space for snow storage, and having to blow the snow over the field’s surrounding fence takes additional time and multiple passes with the snowblowing equipment.
“The reality is extremely complicated in terms of the logistics here,” Gleason said. “We’re talking about over 2 feet of thick snow spread over about 3 to 4 acres.”
And to prevent damage to the turf from the grooming equipment, officials must leave at least 3 or 4 inches of snow on the surface of the field, Gleason said. A borrowed city plow was used to clear the remaining snow.
The track that surrounds the field provides another hurdle.
“The whole crux of the issue is that the plow can’t go over the track,” Gleason said, referring to the track’s delicate surface.
Gleason said the grooming machine was able to blow the north half of the track and field and part of the south half before a mechanical problem stopped the machine Tuesday, leaving anywhere from 6 to 18 inches of snow in addition to what has accumulated since Wednesday.
Now, the high school’s spring athletic teams must hope for either lots of warm, sunny days or someone to step forward and donate the use of snow-clearing equipment.
“I wish there was more we could do,” Gleason said.
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