Injuries are to expected in sports, no matter what the age of the players, but what isn’t expected is that the injuries sustained are not due to the team’s opponents but the very ground they play on.
Until a few months ago, this problem was exactly what athletes at Bear Creek, specifically the football and soccer teams, had to worry about. Luckily, thanks to a select number of dedicated parents and coaches, those athletes no longer have to worry. BCHS will now have a state-of-the-art artificial turf field.
It all began three years ago, when senior (then freshman) soccer player Mattie Mierkey hurt her ankle while running on the field due to one of the many potholes in the grass.
“At the time, the fields were not in suitable conditions to be played on comfortably,” Mierkey said. “The soccer and football fields need to be kept up to a certain standard for adequate play and now the renovations will help reduce injuries in the long run.”
There had been injuries in the past but this one was different because Mierkey’s father was on the School Site Council at the time and was able to team up with several other committee members to begin the lengthy process of renovating the field.
“The BC field [will have] several precautions to help prevent injury to the players,” parent David Mierkey said in an email. “An independent, three-year study of competitive college football showed that when compared to natural grass the Turf system leads to 20 percent Fewer Muscle Strains / Tears, 12 percent Fewer Concussions, 20 percent Fewer Ligament Tears, 24 percent less High Ankle Sprains, 20 percent Fewer Severe Injuries, and 23 percent Fewer Injuries on four to eight Year Old Surface.”
According to Mierkey, the field also has what are called Brock Blocks, which are shock pads under the turf that help reduce risk of concussion. The shock pad absorbs impact energy which keeps the players from having to absorb that energy instead.
Mierkey — along with parent Jeff Seybold, Bear Creek staff, and the Bear Creek Education and Athletic Foundation — was instrumental in selecting what type of field would best fit and protect the athletes and what company would do the renovation.
The funding for the field comes from Measure L, a bond that was passed in 2006, that covers the entirety of the $2 million cost of the field.
“This was a team effort,” parent Jeff Seybold said. “The BC administration, Warren Sun, the Lodi Unified director of operations, Bear Creek Educational and Athletic Foundation, and parents worked together to make it a reality. The funds were made possible from the hard work of those who drafted, supported and passed Measure L. The vision was not to just create a venue for football and soccer, but to produce a multi-purpose facility that the entire student body could utilize and benefit.”
Once the renovations are complete, both the football team and both soccer teams will be able to use it for practices and games.
“The field will result in an estimated savings of 90 percent in water usage,” Athletic Director Anthony Sahyoun said. “In addition, the school district and our maintenance department will not have to mow or paint the grass on a weekly basis.”
As anyone who has ever had the unfortunate luck to be on or around a turf field on a hot day knows, the temperature on a turf field is 10 degrees hotter than regular grass. The new field assesses the problem and has a solution to keep the temperature on the field low.
“Our field will provide a significantly cooler temperature playing surface than other local turf fields,” Sayhoun said. “In addition, black rubber will not be used as an infill on our field. Our field will feature an organic based infill with cork and sand and is considered environmentally safer.”
Being environmentally conscious is important since the drought here in California currently has no end in sight.
The renovations don’t just stop here. Funds from Measure L could also be applied to other projects in the northern Stockton part of the Lodi Unified School District.
“In 2006, Lodi Unified floated the bond Measure L to North Stockton voters,” Mierkey said. “Measure L allows the School Facilities Improvement District No. 1 of Lodi Unified School District to incur bonded indebtedness up to a maximum amount of $114 million. The issuance and sale of such general obligation bonds would be for improving safety systems at existing schools, building new schools, providing additional classroom and science laboratory space, improving athletic facilities, and purchasing or leasing school facilities and sites within the North Stockton area of the District.”
Sahyoun already has the next project in mind.
“Maintaining our fields and athletic facilities is a constant challenge,” Sahyoun said. “Perhaps in the future, we may be able to look at a similar playing surface for our softball and baseball teams to play on.”