Bob Mathias Stadium gets artificial turf, new track

6 July 2017

Last year, Tulare's Bob Mathias Stadium saw an estimated 250,000 visitors for events like school graduations, Relay for Life, Special Olympics and sporting matches.

The stadium is used by both the community and students and has seen its fair share of wear and tear. Because of the high volume of use, the facility needs routine maintenance and upgrades. But, this summer's upkeep is a little different.

The grass playing field has been ripped out to make way for a new, high-quality artificial turf field.

“We are excited to be installing the new artificial turf at the Bob Mathias Stadium," said Tony Rodriguez, Tulare Joint Union High School superintendent. "We know that after it is completed it will be the pride of the community, having a turf where our athletes can compete in all different types of weather conditions."  

The new field will have a consistent feel throughout, and is expected to last 10 years, said Chris Stevens, facilities director.

The total cost for the new turf is $1.2 million and is funded through Fund 400 – a facilities fund for district construction and improvement.

In 2014, the district spent $2.1 million on stadium renovations that included new bathrooms and concession stands and handicap seating.

The artificial turf is scheduled to be completed by the first day of school on Aug. 10, will have shock resistance padding, and is much cooler than older artificial turf models, Stevens said.  

To install the turf, construction crews have to remove the grass field and dig up the non-essential underground irrigation system to prevent possible flooding.

Also being removed is the long jump and triple jump runway and pit previously located on the field. A new runway and pit will be located on the practice field in-between the Tulare Union High School aquatics center and the Kern Ave. stadium entrance.

The runway and pit were hazards for football and soccer players, Stevens said.  "We're taking preventative steps to make sure we don't have any issues here," he added.

Artificial turf is the new normal for many high schools, David Flores, Mission Oak High School head football coach, said.

"A lot of teams we play have artificial turf, it's not out of the ordinary," Flores added. "It's not anything that will cause any hiccups or problems for us."

When it comes to the topic of natural versus artificial turf, both have their pros and cons, Flores said.  Since his team is used to both types of fields, the switch over should be easy.

"We appreciate the investment the district has made," he added. "We're thankful to have a good playing surface and look forward to using it for many years to come."
Renovations continue

The field isn't the only aspect of the stadium undergoing a makeover. The track, used by student athletes and community members, is also under construction.  

The track overlay will feature embedded rubber, which is softer for athletes. The stadium’s original overlay was constructed about 13 years ago and has not been upgraded since, Stevens said.

The track will cost the district $250,000 and is being funded through the deferred maintenance fund.

Last year, the district completed the same construction project at the Tulare Western High School track. The track is expected to be completed on Aug. 23. The first home football game is Aug. 25.

But, Stevens and his crew aren’t worried.  “We’ve got a tight schedule, but we won’t miss any games,” he said.

Bob Mathias Stadium is the only competition field in the district and is used by all three primary high schools. The district has thrown around the idea of adding an additional stadium, but it's still in the early stages, Stevens said.

“We have discussed the possibility of a new field, but right now we’re concentrating our efforts on classrooms,” Stevens said. “It’s a possibility if and when funding becomes available.”

Until then, Bob Mathias Stadium will remain the epicenter for Tulare high school sporting events and activities.  "It's going to be gorgeous," Stevens said. "I can't wait for it to be done."