It’s the closest thing to grass and Detroit Catholic Central High’s recent replacement of its existing synthetic turf football field should be able to combine the best of both worlds.
It was only 10 years ago when CC opened its doors in Novi and had its own home football stadium for the first time.
The estimated $450,000 project started in June and was completed in early July by the Ohio-based Motz Group, which installed its CrossFlex HP synthetic turf system.
The turf features a unique fiber-blend from two of its MVP systems while adding thatch for additional density.
“Basically what you have here is two different styles of turf,” Catholic Central athletic director Aaron Babicz said. “It’s called the monofilament/slit film turf. It’s a thatch-style turf, almost like a crab grass, along with a longer turf.”
Detroit CC is the first high school or college in Michigan to contract with the Motz Group, which is located in Cincinnati.
1st in Michigan
“A lot of the Catholic schools in Ohio have it,” Babicz said. “I was blessed enough to talk to (Cleveland) St. Ignatius, Cleveland St. Edward’s, Cincinnati St. Xavier, also Walsh Jesuit in Ohio. I talked to their A.D. Karl Ertle down there and they absolutely love it, but it’s great for all sports – soccer, lacrosse, football … everybody is using it as a multi-functional style turf. And I know all the kids are excited about it, too. Everybody in Ohio loves it.”
After doing a walk-through and evaluation of the existing synthetic turf during the summer of 2014, Babicz knew it was time to change surfaces and began the process to obtain bids.
“We put some good mileage on it,” he said. “Obviously being in Michigan, the weather does a number on it. To be able to hold a lot of youth events out here as well as our own athletic teams, we definitely put it through the rigors. It’s amazing to see how vibrant this new turf is compared to what we had before. We’re very blessed to have a new turf field, but first and foremost we were able to replace it at the 10-year mark. We feel very lucky.”
Babicz said the project was completed ahead of schedule.
“Just the amount of detail they put into it and the pride they took was unbelievable,” he said. “They had us leave the lights on so they could work until 11:30 at night. It was unbelievable, the hand-cut hash marks, all the designs are hand-cut and put into the field, and they did a phenomenal job for us.”
With an emphasis on horticulture, The Motz Group has been the grounds care business since 1977. They recently installed a new natural grass turf at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark in time for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. They will also be involved with the new natural turf in 2017 when the new Atlanta Braves Stadium is scheduled to open.
“This (synthetic turf) system combines two different types of fiber as well an underpile, like a thatch product,” Motz Group president Zachary Burns said. “It provides a really dense product, which helps encapsulate the infill. It will provide maximum in wearability and also great level of performance for the athletes.
“The infrastructure (at CC) was already in place, which is huge when you’re generally talking about a summer that has been as wet as what we’ve dealt with. It makes the process a lot quicker. Instead of 10-to-12 weeks the first time, it can go three-to-four weeks on the removal and replacement.”
Burns said a lot has evolved over the years regarding the technology when it comes to synthetic turf.
“There’s been improvements on how the systems have performed as opposed to the old Astroturfs that we played on 30 years ago,” he said. “For the most part they would drain horizontally like a sheath you’d see in a parking lot. These systems … they drain just like a USGA green. It drains vertically down through a profile. This school as benefitted. You don’t get rained out. That’s why you see so many baseball fields going to this system, especially in this part of the country. You can literally have a thunderstorm, it’s clear and you can walk out and play the game. It’s huge.”
The newly installed CC turf also has numerous safety components built in as well.
“We also put in a sand infill and tire infill in the turf as well, so with your G-Max test, which basically gauges your impact, this is definitely going to cut down on concussion-type injuries for us,” Babicz said. “It’s a lot easier on the athletes’ legs.”
And by recycling some of the existing materials on the old turf, the project became even more economical.
“What was nice is that the Motz Group was able to take our existing rubber and use a majority of it, and that saved us quite a bit of money,” Babicz said. “We were very lucky because we had a great sub-surface. Didn’t have to spend a lot of money there. We were able to save a little money on the tire rubber. I have to credit the school. We did a great job kind of looking ahead and saving for this project.”
And while synthetic turf obviously doesn’t need watering for fertilizing, there are necessary steps to take to keep the new surface viable.
“Maintence-wise you have to comb the field with a special-type of tractor every two weeks if you really want to keep it up, which I know we plan on doing,” Babicz said. “Making sure there are no sharp objects on there, no colored objects like Gatorade, which would possibly stain the turf. I know opposing schools don’t believe us when we tell them that, but that is true. In the high traffic areas, where the lacrosse goalie stands or where you kick extra points, you want to make sure you’re replacing tire rubber there. It’s just taking care of it and really keeping an eye on it and doing the right things out there.”
The new synthetic turf has a different look cosmetically as well. The blue-painted end zones bears the name Shamrocks, while a large Shamrock logo adorns the midfield area.
And the new surface also bears the name “Tom Mach Field,” which will be dedicated in the name of the Shamrocks’ longtime head football coach on Friday, Aug. 28 at home in the varsity season opener against Muskegon.
“It’s just a perfect fit to get him (Mach) on a new surface in 40th season and at Catholic Central,” Babicz said. “We’re just very blessed.”