“It’s an embarrassment and it’s a safety hazard,” said Howard Frank, who is heading up a committee to raise funds to replace the field with an artificial surface.
Over 1,000 Muirlands students use the field, subjecting it to heavy traffic throughout the day, 10 months out of the year. The field is also used as a practice field for teams at the middle school and from La Jolla High School, and for athletic programs throughout the summer. Frank’s committee represents Bird Rock, La Jolla and Torrey Pines elementary schools, the middle school and La Jolla High, and is seeking to raise $1.2 million to install a synthetic Field-Turf field at Muirlands Middle School.
Frank said the natural grass field at the school simply cannot handle the current volume of traffic.
“I don’t think you can blame anybody for this,” he said. “It’s a product of the lack of fields in La Jolla and the number of kids using it.”
He said the field is in such a state of disrepair that it is dangerous for the kids who use it.
“There’s green stuff growing in some areas, but it’s a stretch to call it grass,” he said. “There’s nothing but ruts and holes and divots all over the place.”
Frank said more than a dozen students suffered injuries on the field in the past school year alone, and he believes most of those injuries could be attributed to the condition of the field itself.
“When a kid is running and twists an ankle, that’s the field,” he said.
He said restoring the natural grass field is not an option because of the constant heavy traffic.
“You can water it all you want and put down as much fertilizer as you want, it’s not going to be a safe grass field,” he said. “There’s just too much traffic.”
The committee hopes to raise the necessary $1.2 million by August, in order to have the new Field-Turf surface ready for next school year. Field-Turf is an artificial turf composed of polyethylene blend fibers in a polypropylene backing, with a mixture of silica sand and rubber infill. Once installed, it requires no maintenance.
La Jolla High School already has the surface at its football and softball fields, and it has been a success there from a safety standpoint, Frank said.
“It doesn’t have the divots or holes or bare spaces that are the leading cause of injury,” he said. “They’ve had it down at the high school football field for seven years and on the softball field for three, and I’m virtually certain there has not been a knee or ankle injury attributed to the field since they put the surface in.”
In addition to being safe and maintenance-free, Field-Turf fields are always green.
“Aesthetically, it’s absolutely beautiful,” Frank said.
Once the funds are raised, Frank said it would take about six weeks to install the surface. The field must be completely level before installation. A drainage system must also be installed underneath the surface, since water passes straight through Field-Turf.
“It’s meant to withstand inches of rain,” Frank said. “As soon as the rain stops, the field is dry.”
Field-Turf is generations beyond past artificial surfaces, such as Astro-Turf.
“Astro-Turf is terrible - you lay down a half-inch think carpet over concrete and call it a field,” he said. “They should lock up the people who came up with that. (Field-Turf) is terrific.”
Frank hopes La Jollans will step up to improve the field at Muirlands Middle School, since every public student in La Jolla will spend time on it.
“We’ve got a wonderful community, and it’s disappointing when visitors come up to that field and see what it looks like,” he said. “The high school had a baseball game against Ramona High School, and the folks from Ramona saw the field and laughed - it’s that bad.”
Donations for the new field can be sent to the Muirlands Foundation at 1056 Nautilus St. For more information call Howard Frank at (619) 574-1888.