A new day dawns at Dozier
When Park City School District support services district director Steve Oliver first set out with a timeline for a completely revamped version of Dozier Field, he decided to take the conservative route.
With the precariousness of weather, workers and materials, he figured a promise to have the field ready by the first home football game on Aug. 18 was about as liberal as he could get — and hoped he wouldn’t have to send Coach Brandon Matich and the Miners down to Salt Lake on that Friday night.
Turns out his hesitance has made him a hero. The Miners marched onto the new field for the first time Monday morning a full two weeks before the projected finish date and three weeks before the annual Endowment Game that kicks off the football season.
Oliver said it was a mix of forces that delivered the field so soon. Hughes Construction finished grading the surface for the new field turf one week early. Then, Sportexe, who manufactures the sports turf, by a stroke of luck provided a double-sized crew to install the field.
"I’m really pleased," Oliver said. "I think it will be a real asset for the community."
He’s not the only happy one. Matich started the usual morning conditioning at the practice field, when they were told they could move onto the field. The initial reaction from the Miners was one of approval.
"It’s a lot faster and it’s a lot better for weather conditions," said wide receiver/cornerback Matt Govin. "Now we have always home advantage."
That "home advantage" is one of the biggest benefits of the new turf. When the field was covered in natural grass, a few snowfalls would render the field unusable and late-season and post-season games would be moved to the turf-covered field at South Summit High School. The new turf, which is actually referred to as Omnigrass, is much more weather resistant.
According to Craig Edwards, a representative of Sportexe, the field is water-resistant and actually gets tackier, adding more traction, as it gets wetter. The field system is entirely synthetic, comprised of two-and-a-half inch grass-like fibers made of polyethylene. The thick fibers are attached to a strong backing and sewn onto the field surface. A layer of ground-up rubber is added, exposing only about a half-inch of playing surface and giving athletes a strong cushion, with superior traction and stability. Edwards says that once the snow falls, the ultraviolet rays from the sun will heat the rubber and the snow will melt faster than on natural grass, allowing athletes to stay on the field into late fall and return in early spring.
"In somewhere like Park City, you’ve got to have a field like this," Matich said.
The surface is also very durable. The fibers are actually a honeycomb lock mesh that slowly breaks apart as athletes use it, making the surface softer and more like natural grass, and covering up most of the rubber. More usage is something that Park City High School athletic director Doug Payne is very excited about, because he can give the prep teams optimal practice time and schedule many practices in one day.
Edwards says that the advantages of the Omnigrass are actually threefold, especially in a cold, dry area like Utah. Maintenance is simple. Synthetic grass doesn’t grow and the official lines are sewn in. That means no mowing and no painting of the field. The field does not require any water usage. In a state with drought problems, keeping a natural grass field green requires a lot of water. And lastly, there are no fertilizers or pesticides that might sneak into nearby rivers and streams. The Omnigrass, says Edwards, saves time, money and the environment.
"In a small community, I think this is the product that really works well," Edwards said.
It also means that the field should soon pay for itself. Now known as an "athletic field" rather than a football field, it is fully lined for football, soccer and lacrosse. So, not only are the prep teams filling up the schedule to use it, but it can be rented out to other entities, as well as used for special events by the city and Basin Recreation.
Initially, there was a debate about whether all of the conflicting lines for each sport would be confusing to the athletes, but distinct color differences have eliminated some of the confusion.
"As an athlete, you clue into color, like in a gymnasium," Edwards said.
Matich only worries that the game officials are aware of the line delineations.
There is similar field at Juan Diego Catholic High School, which has used their facility to host numerous state tournaments and special athletic events. Park City’s biggest rival, Judge Memorial, is also installing Omnigrass for the coming year. The new fields at Quinn’s Junction Recreation Complex are also made of the special turf. Edwards says that well-known teams like the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and the NCAA’s University of California, Berkeley Bears also use the turf and give the surface rave reviews.
Most athletes and coaches agree that the biggest playing advantage is the ability to move fast and make quick cuts and turns in the grass. In natural grass, the cleats often get stuck, compromising the athlete’s knees and ankles. Edwards explains it’s the granulated rubber base that allows for that extra "give."
"When you cut, it’s a lot better than regular turf and it doesn’t burn as bad," said offensive line coach Lee Chart.
He said that you can still get turf burns on the synthetic surface, but protective armbands will safeguard the players. Another consideration is the sterility of the surface. Sweat, spit and other bodily fluids that would sit on natural grass are pulled into the bottom of the Omnigrass, meaning that open wounds on athletes are not easily infected.
In fact, the only cleaning issues are food-related. Because of the rubber granules, the surface can’t be vacuumed, meaning no food, chewing tobacco or sunflower seeds are allowed on the field. Payne says that his biggest initial concern is educating the public on keeping the field debris-free.
If there is a problem, the turf is insured by both the school district and the manufacturer, so should any problems arise, the school will be able to repair it quickly and at a reasonable cost.
The final details of the area surrounding the field are still being completed, which means that the field will not be open to the public for a few more days.
The first official public event will be the annual intrasquad Red-and-White game on Aug. 11.
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