At this time in 2008, the West High football team had begun practice in the Wolf Pack’s new stadium, named for then-coach Steve Lopez. Now, 11 years later, the worn-out turf is being replaced with a new carpeting of synthetic turf.
West High’s athletic director and head football coach, Steven Wichman, said he knew the field was due for replacement and learned in the spring that Tracy Unified School District was a step ahead of him.
“The district was kind enough to take initiative, and they had budgeted for it,” Wichman said. “We weren’t anticipating new turf, but our principal, Dr. (Zachary) Boswell, and I received word from the district back in early April that they had made arrangements to have it replaced for us over the summer, so we were very pleasantly surprised with that news.”
The week after graduates of the West High class of 2019 collected their diplomas on the field, the contractors, Shaw Sports Turf and Bastion Construction, pulled up the turf and began work on the base of the field.
Jaime Quintana, Tracy Unified School District’s new director of facilities, confirmed that this style of artificial turf isn’t expected to last much more than 10 years. The replacement is one of the first projects he will oversee after less than two months on the job. He noted that it took at least a week of demolition before the base of the field could be prepared for the new turf.
“They also have to clean the topsoils and native soils for any debris and any loosening of the original compacted soils. They have to go back and make sure the subsurface is clear and ready for install,” he said.
The project will cost $784, 956, including upgraded access from Lowell Avenue to the stadium as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It should be a three-to-four-week job,” he said. “Realistically, our construction date of completion should be the end of July.”
He added that the field should look the same as before, with the Wolf Pack logo at midfield and “Merrill West” and “Wolf Pack” in the end zones. It will have the same style of synthetic grass coming up through a layer of ground-up black rubber pellets.
Wichman is also looking forward to an upgraded design that includes a layer of padding between the turf and the gravel base, similar to the fields at Kimball and Tracy high schools.
“We realized we didn’t have the layer of shock pad that goes in with the newer additions of the turf, and so it was just grading and then the turf, whereas other local schools have the shock pad and the turf,” he said. “When players are making contact with the ground, there’s a lot more absorption into the ground, so the players don’t take on so much of an impact from the ground.”
Until the Wolf Pack football team can move into the new stadium, the players and coaches are practicing on the fields at the back of the Lowell Avenue campus, which has worked out fine as temperatures climbed into the high 90s this week
“They started the water back here at 2 o’clock, so the ground is holding some moisture for us,” Wichman said. “It’s not radiating so much heat, whereas if we were on the turf, you’ve got the black rubber and it radiates that heat right back up.
“It can turn a 100-degree day into a 110-, 115-degree day on the turf.”