Turf’s long journey starts with single bead

Clayton Church of Yukon, Okla., a turf installer with Pro Grass, pulls on a roll of turf Thursday that will stretch across the field of Leon Williams Stadium. The field is expected to be ready for the first game of the season Aug. 29.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The blades of turf soon to grace Leon Williams Stadium may look like Bermuda grass, but a more appropriate name may be Pittsburgh polypropylene.

The journey to the 85,000-square-foot artificial turf, currently being installed by a ProGrass crew for Clovis High School, started with a single synthetic bead, ProGrass sales representative Bob Thomas said.

The beads, and tons of other materials, will form the surface for the Wildcats to host Alamogordo in their 7 p.m. Aug. 29 season opener.

That first bead, and the thousands that follow it, starts its journey by going through an extruding machine onsite at Pittsburgh-based ProGrass.

The extruded material becomes a simulated grass blade, which is later woven by a tufting machine into a thicker polypropylene base — like roofing material, only much thicker.

“The characteristic of the fiber makes it look like it’s Bermuda grass,” Thomas said, “but there’s no grass involved.”

The “grassy” surface then goes through a coding machine, Thomas said. The coding machine has two purposes. First, the bottom is given a urethane backing to lock the fibers in place. Next, hot needles in the coding machine perforate the backing to allow for better drainage.

The turf at that point, Thomas said, weighs about 70 ounces per square yard. For an 85,000-square-foot field, the weight is roughly 20 tons of turf.

After the surface is sectioned off into 28 to 36 rolls — each 15 feet wide with varying lengths — it’s rolled up and placed into trucks for its trip to Clovis.

Once it arrives, it becomes the responsibility of installation supervisor Brian Belsheim and his crew of seven.

Belsheim said 26 pieces are laid like carpet, side-by-side, to create the football playing area. The sidelines are created by using the remaining sections, which are of varying lengths.

Once the turf’s laid down on a bed of roundrock and geotextile (a cloth to let water drain through but block organics from coming up), it’s time to start “greening it in” in company lingo.

“Basically that means spread your carpet out all the way,” Belsheim said, and “sew it all together” using 60-pound machines.

Belsheim said the crew is “greening it in” until Saturday afternoon, and the next step is to place graphics on the field with a melding machine.

Standard graphics include the football field’s hashmarks, and other additions can include soccer field markings, end zone lettering and midfield graphics.

The final step, according to ProGrass’ Web site, is infill, which means a layer of rubber pellets are sprayed onto the field. The ground up rubber serves as a cushion.

Recent rains have caused a big headache for the crew, so much so that Clovis athletic director Brian Stacy has made arrangements to use Greyhound Stadium as an alternate site for the Wildcats’ season opener. Meanwhile, ProGrass’ crew is adjusting to the constrained schedule.

“Normally we don’t work 16 hours a day,” Belsheim said. “Normally, we’ll work 10 hours a day. Now that we have such a short deadline with all the rain we’ve had … it set us back a bit and we’re having to close the gap.”

Belsheim said he has installed nearly 40 fields for ProGrass, and most times his crews are working with “yesterday” as the deadline. While he’s cut it close sometimes, Belsheim said he’s never had a field late for a season opener and his crew does a quality job.

“We’re taking a lot of pride in our work,” Belsheim said. “We want to install a great field for the football team of Clovis and Clovis High School. We understand they have a big football history, as well as other sports.”