The school year may only be two weeks old, but the first significant test of the year at Mount Baker High School received a passing grade.
Two weeks to the day since sod was put down at Bob Tisdale Field, Mount Baker athletic director Quinn LeSage put on a pair of football spikes Wednesday and made some cuts on the grass surface to see how it would hold up.
“It held up great,” LeSage said. “We’ve spent two weeks growing and cutting it, and it’s an amazing field.”
So amazing, that LeSage moved the Mountaineers’ Sept. 29 1A Northwest Conference game against Lynden Christian from Civic Stadium in Bellingham back to Deming. It will be the first on-campus game since Mount Baker had to move its Oct. 21 game, which also was against the Lyncs, to the artificial turf facility at Sedro-Woolley because of soggy, unsafe conditions last fall.
Since then, the playing surface has received much more than a facelift. Crews scrapped up the existing grass, sub-surface fill, drainage and sprinkling system and went all the way down to the clay beneath the field, LeSage said. Crews then rebuilt from the clay up, using 90 percent sand and 10 percent organic materials to help make sure the field drains properly.
On Aug. 30, sod was imported from Moses Lake and placed, capping off a project that cost approximately $500,000, LeSage said.
“It’s an amazing surface,” LeSage said. “Once you walk on it, you’ll see. It’s way better than we expected. When the decision was made to do this project, we started looking at whether to do turf or grass. We felt this was the best direction for our program. It’s part of our community, and we feel it fits our community. This is a field that our community and our fans can be proud of.”
The community also has played a large role in getting the project completed.
Dan Williamson, a long-time filmer for the football team who had his sons go through the football program, and his construction company did a lot of the work on the project, coach Ron Lepper said, and “he went the extra mile to make sure it was done right.”
The booster club also went to Brent Cowden, a quarterback for the Mountaineers in the 1990s, and his company to ask for money so the project could use sod rather than seeding the field, Lepper and LeSage said, so that that the team’s seniors could get a chance to play a few home games this year.
“It’s an entirely different field,” Lepper said. “There’s no crown (high center down the length of the field) in it anymore. A lot of time and effort went into doing it right.”
The team, which has watched the project progress from its practice fields only about 100 feet away the past month, only lost one home date – its season-opening win over Roosevelt, which was played at Meridian. Last week, the Mountaineers traveled more than four hours to Vernon, B.C., to play Fulton, and Friday they’ll make the trip Port Townsend for their final non-league game before playing Nooksack Valley Sept. 22.
In addition to the Sept. 29 game at Tisdale Field, Mount Baker also will host the Pioneers Oct. 13 and the the Trojans Oct. 27.
“It’s going to be nice to play at home and on such a nice surface,” Lepper said. “The guys have been watching it since Day 1, and they’re pretty excited.”