Football stadium receiving new turf, lights

29 May 2018

She may be just months away from hosting her 53rd high school football season, but she’s not going to let her age spoil her looks.

Veterans Memorial Stadium, Pasadena ISD’s central football facility since it celebrated its opening for the 1966 season, is undergoing major renovations this offseason.

“We’ve actually got three projects going at the same time,” Pasadena ISD Athletic Director Rupert Jaso said Wednesday.

Tops on that three-pronged project list will be the installation of a new artificial playing surface for the 53-year-old stadium.

To go with the installation of new lighting and a new scoreboard, the ole gal is probably seeing her biggest renovation project in 10 years.

Not much longer after the last soccer ball was kicked in April, the old turf was removed and neatly tied into manageable rolls and placed underneath the seating.

At the moment, end zone to end zone just looks like a lot of dirt as graders on Wednesday pushed the dirt around the stadium to begin the process of creating a wide flat surface.

“We had to get it approved by the board so we were going to talk about a new playing surface. We had some drainage issues at the field and we addressed those,” Jaso said.

There’s going to be more than new turf installed. The field is going flat, losing the “crown” many football fields once had, but one-by-one they’re becoming flat.

“We’re getting a new playing surface that will be level. The old crown that everybody is used to in the old days is going to be gone. It’ll be a flat surface. We’re also getting a new scoreboard that will have video capabilities and we’re getting LED lights to replace the poles that are existing,” Jaso said.

Clear Creek ISD’s new Challenger Columbia Stadium in Webster features a flat playing surface as does Katy ISD’s Legacy Stadium that opened prior to the 2017 season.

“I know a lot of the newer fields are flat because they use vertical drainage instead of surface drains. The crown was a surface drain, meaning water had to run off to the side. Now, it will run through the turf, underneath and out. We’re tremendously excited,” Jaso said.

Underneath the new turf will be “shock pads” that will be permeable, allowing for water to soak through them and drain away underneath the surface.

Hurricane Harvey’s arrival just as the 2017 season was set to commence may have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back in terms of drainage.

After Harvey and any torrential rain event, one would routinely see a high water mark of those rubber pellets that’s mixed in with the grass near the corner drains. The installation of this new synthetic surface and its unique drainage system is expected to significantly reduce the loss of those rubber pellets.
But there’s another reason for the change to a flat field.

“Now that we have a lot of spread offenses that throw the football, you can possibly have a quarterback that’s throwing from the center of the field towards the sidelines and there’s a change in depth,” Jaso said. “It’ll be reflective of keeping up with the times and having the best for our kids and best for our district as well.”

As for the new lights, athletic facilities are simply falling in line with other things. The use of LED lighting for brake lights on cars and trucks has become a common sight nowadays. They give off far less heat, but produce just as much if not more illumination.

Katy ISD’s new stadium features LED lighting.

“It’s going to be more directional. It’s almost like the playing surface is illuminated. There’s no spill,” said Jaso, adding they’re going to be more cost effective.

Pearland High School’s baseball field has done away with those time-honored ballfield lights and replaced them with futuristic-looking lights. La Porte High School’s new basketball fieldhouse features similar directional lighting.

“The kids are going to like the look, the feel and we’re going to like the durability,” Jaso said.
For school districts with multiple schools, the durability aspect of a synthetic surface is huge.

Of the 11 weeks to the upcoming football season, seven of the 11 weeks will feature games at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, an increase of four additional Thursday through Saturday weekends compared to last year. But that comes with an asterik because Harvey wiped out the opening two weeks last year and both were Thursday-Saturday schedules.

Toss in JV games on Wednesdays, intermediate school contests on Tuesdays plus the soccer season in the winter months and a playing surface has to earn its stripes because of the wear and tear.

“It’s a high traffic area and we want to make sure we’re accommodating our kids with safety and that it’s a nice place to play, something they can be proud of,” Jaso said.

Jaso has set a timeline of Aug. 1 to have the upgrades in place. That leaves plenty of a cushion before the first game, set for Aug. 30.