It has been eight years since Mission CISD had artificial turf installed at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium and the Veterans Memorial High School stadium, and the time has come to upgrade the stomping grounds.
Immediately after the 2022 football season, the district plans to redo the turf on both fields due to general wear and tear. Usually, artificial grass can last about 10 years in cooler regions, but the Rio Grande Valley heat decreases the longevity of the surfaces before they need updating.
“Unfortunately, the turf is already at the end of its life, so we are going to have to make adjustments because then it will result in a safety issue, especially as the padding and all that starts diminishing,” Superintendent Dr. Carol Perez said.
Currently, the fields are so fragile that the schools can no longer sweep them because the bristles are cracking and breaking when the machines go over the surface. As the fibers thin and wear down, the fields lose their cushioning.
Mission CISD hired Tait-Pitkin Sports Engineers to conduct a GMAX test on the field, which essentially measures the hardness of the surface or its ability to absorb kinetic energy from impact, such as if a player is running or tackling. The lower the GMAX rating, the more energy the surface absorbs, meaning a player on the field would absorb less energy and feel less impact. For the GMAX test, a rating of 60 is considered soft, but one of the Mission CISD football fields registered a rating of 200.
When the district first installed the turf in 2014, it did not come with padding underneath the grass — instead, it is solid rock, according to Assistant Superintendent for Operations Rick Rivera. Since then, turf technology has advanced, so the district plans to install padding below the new artificial grass to make the impact less harsh for players.
Despite the current condition of the fields, Tait-Pitkin told the district they would be safe to use for one more football season but no more. Trustee Iris Iglesias expressed concerns about displacing the spring sports that also utilize the fields and suggested waiting until April 2023 to replace the turf. But administration does not want to risk injuries.
“Adding the wear and tear from another season is further damaging the field,” Deputy Superintendent for Support Services Lorena Garcia said. “So from a safety concern for the soccer students, that’s another consideration. We are pushing it to the limit, and that one more football season is — based on the vendor’s and consultant’s recommendation that did the field testing on both fields — they do not recommend we use that field beyond that. That is why we are making that recommendation. We do not want to put our students at risk.”
Replacing the turf takes about two to three months, according to Rivera. By replacing the turf immediately after the 2022 football season, the district is hopeful there will be minimal disruption to the spring sports. At the June 8 school board meeting, the trustees already approved the request for qualifications for design services, setting the process in motion to make sure the district meets its preferred November 2022 start date.