Made-over ‘Blue Track’ field reopens for PT, soccer, football

Photo by Leslie Ozawa, Public Affairs Office

Just in time for the spring weather, Fort Irwin’s track and sports field, “Blue Track Field,” at the corner of Barstow and Inner Loop Roads reopened March 14 after a half-year and $1.6 million renovation project.

The oval field inside the blue track was completely gutted out to make way for a new foundation and a new type of artificial turf that replaced the grass field.

“Two years ago, the idea was born to save the water we were using to feed the grass and replace it with something commensurate with the people and the quality of the community here,” said National Training Center and Fort Irwin Commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, before cutting the ribbon to reopen the field.

For users of the oval field, besides saving water, the renovation also brought in a much needed improvement.

“The old field was very rough and uneven,” said Sonia Blodgett, wife of Staff Sgt. Joshua Blodgett, coach for the Fort Irwin’s champion soccer team. “There were a lot of holes; sometimes they were not even seen. We found them because someone was injured.”

To smooth out the field, Fort Irwin job order contractor, Infinite Energy Construction, completely ripped out some 3,000 cubic yards of sand, soil and rocks, replacing them with a six-inch foundation of 3/4-inch diameter rock, then overlaid it with a two-inch layer of 3/8-inch rock. The new foundation was topped off with a new type of artificial turf called Cool Turf® that came to market in just the past year.

“A lot of artificial turf facilities use crumb rubber, rubber from recycled scrap tires for the infill,” said Jim Howie, project manager for the Fort Irwin Job Order Contract.

The infill used on this project is a virgin EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber which should stand up well to the hot, dry weather and weather extremes of Fort Irwin, said Howie.

Artificial turf technology has advanced over the years, Howie noted.

“Years ago, when they first came out with artificial turf, people experienced more sport injuries then today,” Howie said. “Due to changes in field construction designs and materials, injuries have been reduced.”

Frank Gonzales, JOC project manager for Fort Irwin’s Directorate of Public Works, said the rock substrate has been carefully laid out in a herringbone fashion to help drain the water into the aquifer beneath Fort Irwin.

“When we have a torrential downpour, there is a fail-safe design, where the water is captured and sent to a storm drain, but under normal precipitation, the water will percolated into the aquifer,” Gonzales said.

Use of the Blue Track sports field

Barry Pinsky, chief of recreation for Fort Irwin’s Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the field will be used by adult and youth sports teams alike, including soccer and flag football. Besides the distinctive NTC logo midfield, the playing field has been permanently marked for soccer and flag football boundaries.

“All lines are permanent,” said Pinsky. “No temporary lines can be put on. We don’t want to stain the field.”

Pinsky noted that to maintain the artificial turf and composite materials, a grooming machine will sweep the field to turn over the small bits of EPDB rubber enmeshed into the Sprint Turf, to simulate the “bounce” of natural dirt. The grooming machine will also comb out rocks and litter, like the sand cleaning machines that sweep the sand on ocean beaches. The machine has a grass roller to pack down the EPDM bits back into the turf.

To keep the field in good condition for years to come, Pinsky said no food, ceremonies, nor vehicles will be allowed on the field.

Scheduling for organized sports or fitness events on the field will be managed by Freedom Fitness Center. Call 380-3685/3457 for more information.