The big decision about whether Manteca Unified will go ahead with all-weather tracks and a new Bermuda-hybrid style grass playing surface at each of its high schools will have to wait until next month.
During the discussion last week about the district’s new athletic use and facility handbook, the Board of Education requested that the district come back next month with concrete numbers for two of the first major athletics-related projects that were included in the handbook that was approved – replacing the fields at both Weston Ranch and Sierra High School with a Bermuda-hybrid style of grass and potentially overhauling the existing track at both sites.
Because Sierra already has an all-weather track, the board would decide on whether to spend the money to rehab the existing surface – which was installed almost 10 years ago – while having a separate discussion about whether to install something similar at Weston Ranch.
According to Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer, the decision for the board will be on what sort of drainage they want to see incorporated with the field and track – keeping in the spirit of long-term maintenance and even safety by preventing the track flooding that is common at some school sites after prolonged rains, and the damage that does.
Between now and 2021, according to the handbook, all of the district’s comprehensive high schools would get the field overhaul as part of a new commitment to maintaining athletic facilities and preventing the types of safety hazards and maintenance headaches that had emerged after years of little oversight.
Both Sierra and Weston Ranch were selected to go first because of the unique safety hazards each stadium field presents – Weston Ranch being overrun with gopher holes that have injured athletes in the past, and Sierra with a crown that needs to be leveled out.
The new grass that the district has selected, according to Messer, is supposed to be the best playing surface available that isn’t synthetic. While normal grass grows straight up, the Bermuda-hybrid that will become standard at Manteca Unified High Schools grows sideway. And that means that maintenance will be handled differently.
One of the things discussed Tuesday was whether the district wanted to purchase each high school the requisite lawnmower needed to maintain the facility – which cost between $15,000 and $40,000 each – or whether they will purchase several that can be shared amongst the school sites.
That decision and those financial options – as well as the cost of artificial track surfaces versus decomposed granite with the necessary drainage – are expected to be present to the board in February so that if approved, the contacts with companies capable of doing the work can be inked in time to have the fields ready for upcoming fall sports season.
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