After unexpectedly unearthing a bevy of debris combined with a wet weekend due to the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto, workers are racing the clock to finish the new artificial FieldTurf renovations at George Mason High School prior to the varsity football team’s home opener against J.E.B. Stuart this Friday night.
“We need it to stay dry today, then put in a 24-hour shift tomorrow and work all we can on Friday up until game time,” City of Falls Church Recreation and Parks Director Howard Herman said Wednesday afternoon.
Workers were most recently delayed by heavy rainfall over the weekend, prohibiting work last Friday and Saturday. More rain on Tuesday again slowed the process that was delayed initially when work crews uncovered a slew of items, including a water heater, signs and old playground equipment, beneath the field at Moore Cadillac Stadium.
“The soil issues added about two to three weeks to the process,” Herman said. “We had hoped to be done last week.”
The debris removal increased the project’s price tag as well. The city council had initially allotted approximately $825,000 for the field renovations, the finished product now looks as though it will come in just over $1 million.
“When people see how nice the finished product is, they’ll understand that it is worth it,” Herman said. “For the first time in years we’ll have young kids fully utilizing the facility up there.”
Previously use of the field by City of Falls Church programs had been restricted due to the impact on the natural grass playing surface. The artificial FieldTurf, a synthetic product that behaves like grass but does not wear as easily, will enable use by more Falls Church programs including youth soccer and lacrosse leagues.
In addition to the increased funding, a possible postponement or relocation of the J.E.B. Stuart game will likely be the only side effect of the delays. Herman stated that, barring a catastrophe, the field would certainly be ready for the Mason football team’s home game on Sept. 15 against Stonewall Jackson High School.
With the status of Friday’s game up in the air, fans can check George Mason’s website (www.fccps.k12.va.us/gm) and click on the “sports” link, or visit www.fcnp.com for an up-to-date final decision. Mason Athletic Director Tom Horn said a decision would likely come today (Thursday) as to whether or not the game will be pushed to Saturday night, with a decision on relocating the game to Stuart following on Friday.
Currently two teams of contractors are working on the field, though dozens of five-foot-high sand bags stacked near the field still must be distributed across the playing surface before the turf will be game ready.
“[The company installing the turf] has told me that they have yet to miss a deadline and they weren’t going to start with us,” Horn said Wednesday. “It’s enough to make you feel really good … until you realize you’re 48 hours from kickoff and there’s not sand or rubber on the field yet.”