Westmoreland schools getting new turf in final weeks before classes
Blame it on the rain.
Crews for artificial turf companies have been scrambling the past few weeks to install the rubber-based green carpet at stadiums across the area — including Franklin Regional, Greensburg Salem, Jeannette and Norwin — before school starts.
While retired Pittsburgh Steelers running back Dick Hoak and current Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Terrelle Pryor starred on Jeannette’s natural grass field, future Jayhawk stars will sprint on artificial turf — the first in McKee Stadium’s 82-year-history. The turf should be completely installed by this weekend, said Ray Battistel, a sales representative for Shaw Sports Turf.
A crew from the Calhoun, Ga.-based company was stretching the field — literally — Thursday afternoon at the stadium. Workers were laying down pre-cut, 5-yard-wide swaths of bright green turf — more than 53 yards in length to cover sideline-to-sideline — then using large, hand-held clamps to stretch the turf to make sure it covered exactly 5 yards. A wheeled sewing machine stitched the edge of each strip to the next swath using nylon thread, Battistel said.
The turf at McKee Stadium — as well as those at Penn-Trafford, Greensburg Salem and Norwin stadiums — is not glued to the surface, said Battistel, a Penn-Trafford graduate who was overseeing the Jeannette project.
While gluing turf to a base works well in the Florida heat, Battistel said the potential for a more than 100-degree swing in temperature in Western Pennsylvania —from upper 90s in the summer as much as to 20 below zero in the winter — would play havoc with glue. Instead, the rubber surface is held in place by its own weight — hundreds of thousands of pounds, Battistel said. The outer edge is secured to a carpet tack board, similar to that used to secure wall-to-wall carpeting in a house.
Jeannette Superintendent Matt Jones and Battistel were confident the new turf will be ready for Jeannette’s first football game, scheduled Aug. 30. The project will cost the district $780,000.
“We know how important football is to Western Pennsylvania,” Battistel said.
At Greensburg Salem’s century-old Offutt Field, workers started carpeting the end zone on Monday, then worked down the length of the field. The crew had the turf down by Thursday and was cutting holes in the turf on Friday for the numbers designating each 10-yard line. The white numbers glued to a base underneath the turf stood in contrast to the bright green carpet.
The turf replacement at Offutt Field will cost an estimated $315,522, according to district business manager James Meyer. It will be paid for in part with a $150,000 grant from the Pittsburgh Steelers through the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program. The remaining money will come from the district’s capital fund.
At Norwin High School, Shaw Sports crews this week were riding a tractor with a hopper carrying 2,000 pounds of rubber pellets, spreading them across the length and width of the field. The rubber pellets lay between the fibers of the artificial grass.
While the field is expected to last about 10 years, Patrick J. Petrarco, the district’s facilities director, said he was told that the rubber pellets had to be refreshed in about five years. It cost Norwin $486,000 to replace the turf at the stadium. The district will spend an additional $101,000 to place artificial turf on the infield of the girls softball field.
Franklin Region’s stadium has a new layer of artificial turf for the first time since 2009. The football team practiced on it last week but has moved to a practice field so a new track surface could be installed this week, said Herb Yingling, assistant athletic director.
The $1.13 million project is being done by AstroTurf, said Jim Heck, the district’s facilities director.
Penn-Trafford’s field was finished July 10.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .