Bond money originally slotted for new restrooms and a third concession stand at the Rio Rancho High School football stadium will now serve another purpose:
Installing a new playing surface.
At the request of parents and coaches who say the current surface — which is visibly uneven and rock hard in places — is leading to an unusually high number of non-contact related injuries, the Rio Rancho school board Monday changed its mind about how it will spend $826,000 in bond money.
“I know it’s unusual to ask for something like this,” said district athletics director Bruce Carver, who presented the idea to the school board. “But my job is to listen and do what is in the best interest of the students.”
While Rio Rancho’s football complex is among the most admired in New Mexico, the school has long had a problem presenting an ideal playing surface.
This current turf has created one medical headache after another for Rio Rancho.
“At one point in time last season,” football coach David Howes said, “I had 11 (players out with) ankle and knee injuries at the same time.”
All of them, he said, were the result of the hardness or instability of the turf, and not contact from the pads or helmet of an opposing player. Many of the lower-body injuries required surgery, Howes said.
Moreover, there were several concussions, the result of a player’s helmet smashing into the turf, according to Howes who estimated between 15 and 20 turf-related injuries during the 2009 season.
“The field is slick and hard,” Cleveland varsity football coach Kirk Potter said.
Hobbs football coach Bruce Dollar, whose team played a game in Rio Rancho in November, said the field was not as soft or pliable as other artificial surfaces, such as the one at his home stadium.
Said Potter: “The turf is also loose in places and that can be dangerous for joints.”
The turf does not support a cleat on a hard cut, Potter said.
Cleveland AD Randy Adrian was at Clovis High when that school went shopping for a new artificial turf.
“Never did I come across a field that was in as poor a shape as the football field at Rio Rancho,” Adrian said.
In a letter addressed to Carver, Todd Seidler, a University of New Mexico sports administration coordinator, said the field may present an “unreasonably hazardous condition.”
“I believe that the RRHS football field presents an elevated risk of injury to players and that such injuries may increase the district’s exposure to possible legal action,” Seidler wrote. “The RRHS football field is in poor condition and … should be replaced … ”
It was this statement, Superintendent Sue Cleveland said, that compelled her to recommend to the board that the district re-direct the bond money.