Temporary fix to Big Mac Stadium turf considered a failure

After the repair of the turf field at Big Mac Stadium (Canonsburg, PA) was deemed a failure, plans are under way to install a new playing field and surrounding track.

Representatives from HHSDR Architects-Engineers, who evaluated the field and found it unsafe for play in March, presented a report to Canon-McMillan School Board’s building and grounds committee Tuesday. In an effort to level the uneven turf, a 10-ton vibrating roller was used in the hope of getting through the spring athletic season.

“It did improve,” said John Carly of HHSDR. “But it’s considered a failure as far as opening for spring.”

Further exploration revealed the dips and bumps in the surface are a result of about 10 inches of sand under the turf, a foundation Carly called “very unconventional.”

“I have never seen this phenomenon before, and I’ve seen a lot of fields,” Carly said. “There is no gravel. The problem with just sand and no gravel is that there are weak zones that become unstable.”

HHSDR recommended the district put out bids to redo the entire field and track, a project that can cost more than $1 million, depending on the options chosen. The base cost to install a proper gravel/sand foundation and new turf, and to resurface the track, will be about $750,000.

The proposal calls for removing about six inches of sand, leaving four inches to be covered by four inches of gravel. Two inches of sand will placed on top, followed by new turf. The study found the drains under the field were functioning properly.

Several decisions still need to be made, including colors and lettering on the field, track colors, whether to install a new sand pit, and what type of artificial turf to use, all of which will add to the final overall cost.

Another uncertainty is whether the building and grounds committee will opt to eliminate two edge drains that run the length of the field, a project that could cost $12,000 to $40,000.

Carly said the current drain could cause injuries to athletes such as soccer players, who are exposed to three different surfaces during a game.

“On a corner kick, they’re going from track to metal to turf,” he said. “It’s not the best scenario.”

After having to reschedule games and practices for the rest of the school year, athletic director Frank Vulcano Jr. said he is “excited to get something state-of-the-art.”

“It’s a dangerous surface,” Vulcano said of the field. “In the end, it will be good for all … to have a new facility.”

While the track and field team has been able to use the facilities, all lacrosse games have been played at the nearby Chartiers-Houston High School stadium. The district also is looking for practice fields for four middle school soccer teams and two varsity soccer teams, and will need a practice space for the football team.

Pending approval of the school board, construction is slated to begin in mid-May and continue to the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. The field will be closed through summer. However, the committee agreed to open the stands on Independence Day so residents can watch fireworks.

The project is to be paid for by money from an unreserved fund. Bids will be opened May 1 and a contract awarded May 7.

The building and grounds committee will meet at 10 a.m. May 5 in the administration building to finalize its choices.

Matthew Zewalk, director of facilities at Canon-McMillan, said the current field is in its 12th year of use. He was not sure of the cost to install it and said the company that performed the work is no longer in business.