The Mexico Board of Education last month decided to seek out construction companies that turf athletic fields through a purchasing cooperative. Member companies of that cooperative — Byrne and Jones Construction, Mid-America Sports Construction and ATG Sports — all gave presentations to the board Tuesday as it nears a decision on how to turf the football field, baseball infield and construct a turfed soccer field at the high school. The board would like to have the fields ready to go by the spring sports seasons.
All aspects of the construction process are handled by the respective companies. This includes, but is not limited to, soil stabilization, field base rock for drainage purposes, field grading for drainage purposes and, of course, the turfed fields. The companies also construct bleachers, running tracks and other athletics amenities.
Byrne and Jones, which started as an asphalt paving company before creating an official sports division in 2009, works with Astroturf, Field Turf, Sprinturf, Shaw Sports Turf, Green Fields and Sporturf depending on field type. Mid-America Sports works with Astroturf, while ATG makes its own product known as RamTurf.
Determining which field product is chosen depends on a board's goals, said Byrne and Johnson Business Development Manager Brett Gaither. "Is it durability, is it playability, it is price, is it safety?" he said.
Turfing the three fields is estimated to cost between $2 million and $2.5 million, Superintendent Zach Templeton said at last month's board meeting. Field construction will have to be financed since the district cannot spend more than $1 million out of its capital improvement fund at one time.
"Our pricing is a budget and I want you all to understand that. We have plugged some numbers in there for some manufacturers. That is not a hard bid," Gaither said, adding that to provide a hard bid Byrne and Johnson would need to sit down with all decision makers to rank and figure out field usage to determine a final price.
Board member Scott Nichols wanted to know what sort of warranty would the district get out of products from Byrne and Jones. Gaither said a typical warranty is eight years, with most turf fields being used into year 10. Kirk Grego, president of Mid-America and ATG Director of Sales Joe Gianino mirrored this assessment. ATG's product has lasted up to 14 years, though, said Don Bolinger, ATG president of construction services.
Nichols also inquired about the turf replacement process. Each company does it a little differently, but in general, the old turf is removed, the under field inlay is either recycled or replaced and new turf is placed on the field. Installation of a football field is estimated between $750,000 to $800,000, with replacement costs from eight to ten years later around $400,000. All three companies indicated this replacement price point.
Mid-America started as a golf course construction company before adding its sports construction division and works both with natural and synthetic turf. It has done around 100 design-build projects through a cooperative purchasing agreement, Grego said. He encouraged the board to be careful from where a warranty comes. "Make sure you understand the warranty and make sure that warranty is coming from a manufacturer or a third-party because I can give you a warranty and if I go out of business, my warranty is worthless, so just make sure you're really cautious of that warranty," he said.
Mid-America presented an Astroturf product that incorporates a monofilament fiber, or singular line of turf coupled with a root system that mimics natural grass and is reportedly better able to contain underfill.
Board president Dustin Pascoe wanted to know if Mid-America's single turf product would work for all types of sports fields. Christian Cox with Mid-America said the turf they have available is good for any sport for different reasons. "It's amazing for baseball and soccer because with the root zone in there, it keeps your infield in place and keeps the playability with those sports where there is more ball-to-ground contact," he said.
As for football, it helps with impact energy dispersion, also known as g-max. "If you put a feather pillow on a brick wall, it'd be soft, but if you punch it, it will hurt. The dashboard of your car is hard, but if you punch it, it doesn't hurt. That's energy dispersion. That's where g-max comes in," Cox said.
G-max depends on what is underneath the turf to help with energy dispersion, whether that's sand, rubber or a mixture. As a field is used that infill can become impacted increasing a g-max number, which means a field is not dispersing impact energy the way it used to, such as a score between 160-175. The root system in the turf product from Astroturf keeps the infill loose enough to keep a g-max number lower, Cox said. It also prevents infill from creeping to a turf's surface, Grego said.
Templeton asked how winter weather would affect the dirt process for the fields.
"The most important part of these projects is getting the dirt moved as early as possible. We can't bury frost in the field," Grego said. "The gravel and all of the drainage can happen when the weather is inclement. Obviously if there's a foot of snow, we can't work or extreme cold where equipment doesn’t want to start."
ATG lays turf offset from grid lines on a field since turf seams are the weakest points, Bolinger said. ATG decided to craft its presentation as if it already had the job, Gianino said. The company has constructed fields in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Illinois. Warranties extend to all work, not just the turfed field, Gianino added.
ATG, along with creating its own turf product, manufactures its own turf maintenance products, which can be included with the job. The company also provides a not-to-exceed number, Bolinger said about project costs. Because of this, if a project goes over budget, ATG covers the excess cost, he said.
"It's more an insurance policy for us and for you, so it's a very important part of the job," Bolinger said.
The board continued its discussion following the presentations. Members said they were leaning toward granting the project to ATG, which Templeton also recommended.
"There's a timeline and I think we need to move forward at the regular October meeting if we're going to move forward for the spring season. If we wait until November, we might as well wait until April," Templeton said.
ATG does a lot of work in the Mid-Missouri area, he added. Activities Director Travis Blevins also is familiar with ATG's previous work, he said.
"Given the list [of clients that the companies] offered us, I'm amazed we've managed to escape getting a turf field. Apparently every other school in the state has a turf field," Pascoe said.
If for some reason the board was to keep the fields natural as they are currently, what would that mean for the soccer field if it's relocated to the high school, Nichols asked.
"I don't think you can relocate the field to the high school without going turf because you're taking away the football practice space. So what is going to happen is they're going to practice on their field if it's artificial turf because you can use it that much," Templeton said.
The football team has to hold its practice somewhere and if the soccer field is relocated to the high school without turf, but grass, then the football team likely would have to practice offsite, he said. "Moving the soccer field to the high school is contingent upon turf," he said.
Nichols posed the turf vs. grass question because of comments he's received from the public and he wants to make sure the next time to board seeks support from the public that they have done what the public wants, he said.
Tempelton said he's also looking at a loan program for community development through the Consolidated Electric Cooperative, which could cover costs up to $2 million with 0% financing. "I just wanted you to know we're looking at some funding options," he said.
The board will take time to review information and pricing from the three companies and will make a final decision at the Oct. 15 board meeting.