Too much rain causing turf troubles
A year's worth of rainfall in just a little less than eight months has wreaked havoc on most athletic fields in the Chattanooga metro area.
Hixson High School football coach Jason Fitzgerald clears away day-old cut grass from the side of the field Thursday. The persistent rainy weather postponed mowing for a week.
"Just seems like it's raining all the time. The biggest problem's been trying to keep up with it to keep it cut," says Fitzgerald. "At a time we started to get a little fungus on it because it was so wet."
He got rid of that problem, but with the season opener just a day away he couldn't wait any longer to mow, even if it means tearing up portions of the field.
"If you put that tractor out here to cut it it's just making indentions and marring the field," explains Fitzgerald.
To reduce wear and tear and the risk of player injuries before their first snap of the year, some practices have taken place in the gym.
"Somebody slips and pulls a groin or pulls a quad or twists an ankle when the footing's not good," says Fitzgerald. He wants to avoid this as much as possible.
Over at Chattanooga Christian School (CCS) a different approach is taken. Fund raising efforts that included alumni paid for artificial turf which is durable and weather-resistant. The field, part of a sports-plex project on the campus, was finished back in May and is being used by the soccer and football teams.
"The real only weather issue that would keep us from playing is lightning because the field drains approximately, they say, about three inches of water in thirty minutes which gives us a dry field, when the natural grass surface that we used to have here would have been completely under water," says school president Chad Dirkse.
He also says new artificial turf technology has reduced the chances of "turf toe" injuries and feedback from the athletes has been largely positive.
"If you look at all the upsides to turf and you look at all the downsides, the upsides we think weigh out more positively," says Dirkse.
He adds that Covenant College's men's soccer team has practiced at CCS to try to keep its grass field in the best shape possible.
Fitzgerald says he doesn't think the condition of Hixson High's field will negatively impact his team too much since most other teams are "in the same boat" as far as playing conditions.