Football field flooding remains a mystery

Tucson Magnet High School’s million-dollar football field flooded again Friday, before authorities had time to figure out what caused it to flood nine days earlier.

This time, the flooding wasn’t nearly as severe or as long lasting as on July 19, when Rollin Gridley Field was jokingly called “Gridley Lake” and the entire field was underwater for an extended period. On Friday, only large parts of the field and the surrounding track were flooded and the water receded by 5:30 p.m.

District officials hope to be able to pinpoint the flooding causes by next week and get the field ready by the time the Tucson High Badgers’ season starts at the end of August, said Interim Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo.

The cost of repairing damage to the field should be covered by flood insurance, Trujillo said. The district is working closely with its insurers and with “partners” at the city of Tucson and Pima County to assess the damage and determine the best fix, he said while standing near the field Friday evening.

Early this week, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry fingered debris-clogged storm drains on and near the field as a culprit for the July 19 flooding. The presence of a rubberized layer underneath the field’s artificial turf and of buildings near the field also made it hard for floodwaters to easily escape, he wrote in a report on Monday.

Trujillo said much of the debris had been cleared from the storm drain grates by Friday. But floodwaters were bubbling up onto the field through grates on its northeast and southwest corners Friday, he said, and he doesn’t know why or the source. Other observers pointed to a large culvert northeast of the field that appeared to be bringing in floodwaters off of Sixth Street.

“It’s way too early to make a determination as to where the water is coming from,” Trujillo said. “You’re dealing with drainages built by the Army Corps of Engineers, box culverts run by the city and our own drainage pipes. We really need more time and information.”

“Anytime you have weather-related challenges it forces institutions to work together,” he added.

Before the field reopens, district officials want to make sure it’s stable structurally, that no water is dripping from the artificial turf and that the turf contains no holes, he said. They also want to make sure any bacterial or other contamination left behind by the floodwaters is gone, he said.

Urban storm runoff typically carries many types of pollutants, including toxins from asphalt streets.

“We want to take all possible precautions,” Trujillo said.- by Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)