Turf: Answered Prayers

Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo.

By Laura Pennino

Administrators, coaches and students at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., know that prayers really are answered and miracles do happen—even when it comes to new athletic fields and winning state championship titles!

Father Terrence A. Baum, S.J., president of this Jesuit preparatory school with an enrollment of 1,066 students and a staff of 85 in Kansas City, and Athletic Director Peter Campbell faced the challenge of upgrading the Rockhurst High School athletic field during the summer of 2010 before the beginning of the new academic year. The warranty on the existing field had expired. Estimates to repair and maintain the old field would have been as high as $80,000, making a new field more cost-effective.

All but one of the construction companies that Rockhurst High School considered for the project estimated a four- to six-week turnaround at best and indicated that the installation would have to wait until after football season.

Delaying or extending the renovation process was unacceptable for a variety of reasons. The Rockhurst High School athletic program has been ranked by Sports Illustrated Magazine in recent years as one of the Top 10 high school athletic programs in the nation. Rockhurst is defined as a Class 6 school by the Missouri State High School Activities Association, meaning that it competes against the largest high schools in Missouri during state competition. Rockhurst has won 34 state championships in the past 10 years.

About half of the student population participates in organized team sports at Rockhurst High School. The athletic field is heavily used almost year-round by football, soccer and lacrosse teams in addition to physical education classes and softball games as part of the P.E. program. The turf field also serves as a practice facility for the baseball and track and field teams when their grass field is unplayable due to weather conditions.

MDH Turf, a new subsidiary created in 2010 by McAnany Construction of Shawnee, Kan., proved to be the right choice. Baum and his staff felt that McAnany and MDH Turf had the knowledge, experience and relationships to enable Rockhurst High School to upgrade the new field within the specified timeframe, and also offered a progressive recycling solution that would reduce costs by approximately 20 percent. Ed Huggins, vice president responsible for athletic fields and golf course renovation with MDH and McAnany Construction, served as the project manager.

Using a design-build approach that is often preferable among general contractors, MDH Turf engaged Vance Rzepka, architect and founder of VSR Design of Overland Park, Kan., to assist with the field design and Bob Aurich, regional sales manager for TigerSports Americas Inc., to assist with supplying high-quality synthetic turf.

"The design-build option was the best and fastest way to satisfy the project requirements for Rockhurst High School," Huggins said. "Because MDH was able to choose the architect, we were in a solid position to effectively manage the timeline, field design, work crews, quality and budget."

The project kicked off on July 23 and was completed on Aug. 9—just 17 days. Executing what it now calls The Extreme Turf Makeover, MDH employed three shifts of crew members for several consecutive days to meet the project schedule.

Rzepka worked closely with MDH to evaluate and correct the grading of the field. He noted that the old field had a crown on one end that was sloped from the 30-yard line to the back of the end zone. He added that the ability to make the crown uniform across the entire length of the field was limited by the sub-grade and drainage rock thickness. Another level of complexity that Rzepka and the team addressed was the addition of perimeter netting to allow lacrosse practice during track practices.

"The tight timeframe for the project required that all parties, starting with the owner, had to be in sync during both the design and construction phases. Everyone on the team understood the issues and, as a team, we identified potential obstacles in the event one was uncovered during the renovation process. Each team member committed to being available nearly 24/7 once demolition and construction began. Having Delbert Conrad on site on behalf of the school with the ability to make decisions quickly was one of the critical factors in our collective ability to see this project to completion so quickly," Rzepka said.

Aurich specified and delivered 103,000 square feet of Tiger XQ 48 synthetic turf. This product is made with TenCate's patented XQ technology that offers a remarkably playable, resilient turf system with exceptional durability characteristics that enable the turf to retain its integrity and deliver optimum performance for the life of the turf.

"Shock absorbency is one of the key characteristics of a turf system that is lost as a synthetic turf field ages, and that increases the risk of injury to players," Aurich said. "The yarn in the turf deteriorates over time, affecting infill and infill levels, causing the field to become less absorbent to the shock and pressures placed on it by athletes."

Baum also had asked MDH to recycle the turf and infill for environmental and cost savings purposes. All of the turf removed from the Rockhurst field by MDH was made available for other turf projects, saving the expense of transportation and disposal into a landfill. Additionally, using an extraction device, MDH was able to salvage approximately two-thirds of the 300,000 pounds of rubber infill that was needed for the new field. (MDH did not expect to retrieve 100 percent of the original infill because infill typically "walks" or "splashes" away over time through regular active play and rain or snow issues.)

"Within a day or two of beginning the project, it was clear that McAnany and MDH would keep their word. They stayed on schedule in spite of the blistering summer heat. And I am pleased that they were able to recycle the turf and rubber infill," Baum said. "The TigerTurf product proved to be as durable as promised, and our coaches and players loved playing on it this past fall. No doubt, it contributed to our state championships in both soccer and football."

Athletic Director Campbell indicated that the new field has been 100 percent problem-free. He added that he and his staff have not experienced any drainage issues whatsoever, and the field is always usable.

When asked if he would recommend that other schools and recreational facility manager consider a similar solution as Rockhurst High School chose, Campbell laughed and said, "Yes, I already have!

Many times!"


Rockhurst High School:

TigerTurf Americas Inc.:

MDH Turf/McAnany Construction:

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