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Trustees approve bid for 'great' turf fields

With the approval Friday from Iowa Park ISD trustees, the Hawks and Lady Hawks will soon have turfed fields for baseball and softball that are “great” as opposed to “good.”
In the special called meeting at noon Friday, Director of Operations Jonathan Clubb presented to board members a months-long search by a committee consisting of Clubb himself, Superintendent Steve Moody, Athletic Director Aubrey Sims, head baseball coach Michael Swenson, head softball coach Amy Garcia, and Director of Maintenance Tim Kingcade.
The committee focused on five companies that have expertise in turf fields, and took field trips to six locations across the state from Rockwall to Glen Rose to Graford, and including locations in the DFW area to see the field themselves. In the process, they questioned several school administrators and athletic directors.
“After taking the time to look at each company’s fields, after looking at each company in great detail, after spending hours and hours as a team speaking with countless references, it has become clear to us that there are two classes of fields we can get,” Clubb said. “Make no mistake we are looking at five of the best turf companies that are on the market today.
“We have seen the ‘good’ and we have seen ‘great’. Do you want good or do you want great?”
The companies with ‘great’ fields included Paragon and AstroTurf, while ‘good’ fields were being done by Carter, Hellas, and Symmetry.
The difference in bids between the two options presented amounted to a $100,000 difference, with Carter coming in with low bid at $1,328,408, and AstroTurf with the highest bid at $1,465,600.
Hellas, the company that turfed Hawk Stadium, made a bid of $1,333,500. Symmetry’s bid was $1,364,746.
The committee’s recommendation was to go with Paragon, with a bid of $1,452,865.
“We cannot recommend to you guys ‘good’ after seeing ‘great’, Clubb said. “With that being said, by far and away, our choice unanimously as a group is Paragon Sports Constructors.”
The board, with members Cary Waters and Steve Fairchild absent, unanimously approved the Paragon bid.
Included in the official bids are “bid alternates” that include
• New eight-foot (with batter’s eye) metal outfield fencing for both fields;
• Install drainage pipe in the drainage ditch behind the softball field connecting the existing outlet to the inlet drain pipe. Cover and sod the ditch;
• Replace the four 20’x44’ grass bullpen areas with turf, with mounds to match field mound; and,
• Install lettering behind both home plates.
Following the meeting, Moody stated “The turf project for the baseball and softball fields will allow the school to complete the renovation plan for the athletic facilities.
“Our students will be provided the opportunity to compete on a top-notch competition field that matches Hawk Stadium. The turf is designed to withstand high use and provides a safe and playable surface for our student athletes year round.
“Rainouts will become obsolete for baseball and softball games.
“The parents and community of Iowa Park have a proud tradition of supporting our students and schools,” he noted. “We are thankful for their support and believe the community will benefit from our ability to host additional playoff games and tournaments at Hawk Fields. This will bring in many fans from other towns who will support our local businesses.”
Swenson echoed Moody’s thoughts, adding “I really think it’s a game changer. As long as it’s not raining or lightning, we will get to practice or play.
“Our practice will be better because the field will play true,” he continued. “It will be completely different from anyone in the area, which should draw teams to want to play here in tournaments and playoff games.
“The kids are really excited about it,” added Swenson. “I want to thank Mr. Moody, Mr. Clubb, Coach Sims, and our school board for making this happen. it will definitely benefit our programs.”
Clubb noted, in looking at a slightly blurry opening slide titled “Iowa Park CISD Softball and Baseball Turf Project, that the search committee at the onset had a similar “blurry focus.”
“When you look at the opening slide here ... as a group, and probably as a board, I think we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted,” he said. “And I would say that there were certain items that we were looking at with rose-colored glasses. And example is, if you put turf down, that was it. There is no maintenance, you don’t have to worry about it, you are good to go.
“Of course, as we worked through this, that was certainly not the case.”
The group initially went to Midwestern State University’s softball field (built by AstroTurf), where they noted toe-drag marks made by the pitchers, creating trenches through the turf.
“It really got our attention, and that was good,” Clubb said. “Right off the bat it made us realize high-traffic areas or with areas that are are going to impacted more than others, we need to have a plan to replace those, because it does not look good if you do not.”
Clubb added that a centerfield logo, while looking good on overhead photos, were a significant amount of money that “will probably not get the bang for the buck.”
The committee also looked at Sunrise Optimist Club field and Hoskins Field (built by Hellas). “Very nice fields. Wouldn’t want to take anything away from them,” Clubb said.
The group then made an extended trip starting in Rockwall, and ending in Graford.
“When we made this trip to Rockwall, Highland Park, Dallas Baptist, Kennedale, Glen Rose and Graford ... this is where we got to see good fields, and we had seen some good fields ... but for the first time this is where some of the fields differentiated themselves from others.
“This is where ... I can’t emphasize to you enough ... when it made a difference to us, and we were able to pick out the cream-of-the-crop fields versus the other ones ... all five companies that we have are good companies and all would give you a good field ... but what you’ll see is if you want good, you can have good. If you want great, you can have great.”
The first location was in Rockwall, with both baseball and softball fields done by Paragon.
“This is one of the first great fields we stepped on,” he noted.
Swenson said some of the features that stood out would help his program to utilize all the avaiable space.
“The big thing is, we will utilize every inch of the field,” Swenson said. “They have markings in right and left field that will give us more infields. So you have you main infield, and they would set up these plugs in the outfield where you would just throw your bases down ... they are a different color ... and you have another infield. With as many kids we have in our program, it is just one way to maximize every bit of the space we have.”
Clubb also pointed out their mound construction was unique, with a track-like subsurface to provide longer life to the mound.
The second location was Highland Park, which featured a “true-hop” product which is a combination of two types of turf fibers.
“The infield at Highland Park stood out to us,” Clubb said. “it was different. It played differently. We liked it a lot.”
Swenson added “The biggest thing is the outfield. We actually took a ball out there. We want it to play as close to baseball as possible. On some turfs, if a fly ball lands in front of you, it takes that big hop and bounces over your head. This (turf) doesn’t do that. It is a true baseball hop. I particularly liked the outfield at Highland Park, as well as the infield.”
The Highland Park field also had markings that would utilize space for a short football field to practice on, with mow marks spaced five yards apart.
Clubb then noted that Highland Park’s field has had three seasons of play on it. “That is another thing that made a big difference to us ... as we looked at the different fields that had three or more seasons on them, there were things that stood out to us on how they wear.”
All companies bidding on the project have an eight-year factory standard warranty that includes high traffic areas that can be replaced.
The group then went to Dallas Baptist University (constructed by Swank), which also featured the striped (mowed) turf. “The more that we looked at the DBU field, the more it became apparent to us that this clean look you see is gorgeous. The field speaks for itself. It really pops. The Rockwall, Highland Park and DBU fields are the ones we were looking for. When you saw them, you were immediately impressed. When you walked on those fields, you were equally impressed.”
The group visted a Hellas project at Kennedale. “It was a nice field ... there are some things we would want to change, but still a good field.”
The group then concluded their trip at Glen Rose (Carter) and Graford (Symmetry).
They noticed in Glen Rose that the right hand batter’s box had been replaced, and had sunken an inch or so into the ground.
They also noted grass growing through the turf.
The “Evaluation Criteria” promoted by the committee included:
• Price;
• Responsiveness (timely and precise communication);
• References;
• Qualifications of respondent personnel (in particular onsite foreman and similar completed jobs); and,
• Financial stability.
According to the group, Paragon led or tied the bidders in responsivness, past work, references, qualifications and financial stability.
According to Paragon, the new synthetic surface is a mixture of dual products from Shaw Sports Turf,. “Shaw Sports Turf Legion Pro is utilized for the grass areas, and the TruHop product in chocolate color is installed for the clay base baths,” they said in a news release on the Highland Park field, which is the template for Iowa Park’s new fields.
“We’ve used a closer cropped turf for the chocolate areas, for the cut areas, with a lot higher sand content for amore natural clay bounce. For the grass areas we used a turf that has a rigid monofilament and it looks, plays, and bounces more like natural grass.”
The pitcher’s mound will include a unique concrete mound with rubberized turf underlayment, which will eliminate the routine maintenance of a traditional clay mound.