Athletes at Palm Springs High School got one step closer to having a field to use Tuesday as labor crews began laying down new sod onto the football field that has been tainted with shards of glass since the summer.
Crews will continue to lay sod for the rest of the week, meaning track-and-field athletes will be able to use the track by March 1. The field, however, won’t be available until early April because for the first 30 days after being laid it can’t be used lest the school void its warranty, Athletic Director Dennis Zink said.
“As part of the warranty on the field, we can’t have anyone on it for 30 days, so we’ve had to cancel a home (track) meet and had to move the dates of two other ones,” Zink said.
The cost of the project has been around $100,000 so far.
The glass-in-the-grass problem began when the now-defunct California Bio-Mass composting company dumped a top dressing used as fertilizer onto the field in July that contained shards of tempered glass that were not discovered until October. California Bio-Mass was forced to close its doors by the county for unrelated odor issues at its Thermal-based site.
Normally, glass that gets mixed in with recyclable compost material is filtered out in the recycling process, but the pile that was delivered to Palm Springs High School in July did not receive such a treatment, Cal Bio Mass owner Michael Hardy said when the glass was discovered in October.
Palm Springs played four home football games — against Pacific, Corona, Redlands and Coachella Valley — before realizing the glass was on the field. Their final home game, Oct. 18 against Palm Desert, was moved to Rancho Mirage High School. Both, the girls’ and boys’ soccer teams were displaced to the school’s practice football field for their entire seasons.
Now it’s the track and field teams that are being inconvenienced.
Palm Springs track-and-field athletes are currently practicing at a softball field just off campus, between the school and Palm Springs Stadium. And while that field is not ideal for the runners — who can’t practice on a track — it is not equipped at all for competitors in the long jump, triple jump and discus.
“We just make do, that’s the only place we have. We run on the grass out there. What it really hurts is jumpers. We can’t get on the field until the end of March and so, literally, our jumpers have no practice,” said track-and-field coach Randy Small. “Our discus throwers will have no practice, other than twirling — they can throw discus, but they can’t let loose because there’s no cage.
“We start March 1 (at a meet at Ontario High School) and it’ll be the first time that our long and triple jumpers get to jump.”
Joseph Camargo is a senior long jumper, who also runs the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400-meter relay. He never saw this coming for his final year of track and field and is going to miss the spectators who usually attend home events that have had to be canceled or moved.
“It’s hard. We’ve just got to go day by day until they open the track,” Camargo said. “It’s a bummer because usually a lot of kids come out and watch us. We just got to get through it.”
He’ll be making his first long jump in Ontario next month and isn’t sure how that’s going to work either.
“I can’t practice because I’ve got to measure my length, so our first meet is going to be hard because I’m not gonna know (how) to set up,” Camargo says.
Zink is hoping that the team will be able to use the facilities at other schools within the Palm Springs Unified School District to practice until the track and field reopens completely but isn’t sure when, or if that will happen.
“We just don’t have a whole lot of options right now,” Zink said.
The re-sodding also will force Palm Springs High School to cancel its annual Palm Springs Relays track meet in March for the first time in close to 50 years.