Installation of Civic's new turf begins; first week still in question

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 28, 2013 

A crew, from Sprinturf, pulls on the turf as Cody Alton, left, flattens a seam with a roller as they install the new turf at Civic Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 in Bellingham.

DAVID RASBACH — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Don't write off the first week of high school football at Bellingham's Civic Stadium just yet. There is still a shot Sehome could host Nooksack Valley in the season opener for both teams on Sept. 6.

After a delay to fix a drainage problem on the field, crews were able to begin installing the new Sprinturf surface at Civic.

"The turf has been here, and they started rolling it out (Monday, Aug. 26)," Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department recreation manager Greg Hatch said in a phone interview. "I haven't been out yet to see their progress, but I hear they are moving forward. ... The last timeline I saw was contingent on the weather and everything going perfectly, but it looked like it would take two weeks to install, and that would take us right up to that (Sept. 6) first game. Hopefully we'll be able to get there. It's looking like it's going to be close."

The Parks and Rec Department originally had a Sept. 6 completion date in the contract with Sprinturf, which submitted the low bid of less than $400,000 for the installation of the new playing surface.

But after the old surface, which was installed in 2000, was removed earlier this month, tests on the field's base surface showed that drainage problems persisted, forcing the project to be delayed so that Premier Field Development Inc., could be brought in to scarify the base material, or break it up so that it could drain more rain water.

The extra process was estimated to cost another $47,000, Parks and Recreation Department project engineer Gina Gobo Austin said, which was covered by the project's $80,000 contingency fund. Gobo Austin said the extra work also forced the contracted completion date of the installation with Sprinturf back to Sept. 20.

But the extra time and money to fix the draining problems seem to be paying off.

"The last test was going good," Hatch said. "We feel like we've gotten rid of any draining problems. We brought in some more material, and eliminated a couple of low spots."

But now the big question is whether or not the field can be installed in time for Sehome's game against Nooksack Valley.

The project was unable to begin until Bellingham United wrapped up its Pacific Coast Soccer League regular season schedule on July 21. Until the necessity of the extra work on the drainage issue was discovered, the six-week window between the end of the soccer season and the start of the high school football season was expected to be long enough.

Finding a six-week window during the summer was tough enough, considering Hatch estimates Civic hosts more than 400 events annually.

In addition to the Nooksack Valley-Sehome game on Sept. 6, Bellingham is scheduled to host Mount Baker in those teams' season opener on Sept. 7.

"I'm ready to get out there and play, that's for sure," Hatch said. "All three (city) high schools, particularly the ones at home the first week, have made contingency plans, but we'd rather have them play at home, and I know they would rather play at home."

If Civic is not ready, those contingency plans include switching the location of the games to opposing school.

But there's no doubt where Sehome would like to play the game, even though the Mariners are anxious to break out some new white jerseys this year.

"If that thing's ready Thursday (Sept. 5) night, I want to play Friday at Civic," Sehome coach Bob Norvell said. "Nooksack Valley is a tough place to play."

Nooksack Valley coach Robb Myhre said that the Pioneers have asked for a decision to be made on the availability of Civic Stadium by Friday, Aug. 30, so that they can make arrangements to host the game with Sehome if that becomes necessary.

"We're fine with it either way," Myhre said. "Obviously, we wouldn't mind having another game here at home, and on a sunny Friday night early in the season, I don't think there's a nicer place to be. If we get to play down there, it will be good experience for our guys for the postseason, playing before a bigger crowd and on the turf."

Reach David Rasbach at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2286.

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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