After reading news reports that the football field at Jim Thorpe High School was flooded again and that the team would have to give up its last two at home games and play on their opponents' fields, one local businessman called the school. Instead of calling to demand an explanation, Joe Jaskot, area irrigation sales manager with Finch Services, Inc., called to offer a solution, or at least a few steps in the direction of a solution.
The Jim Thorpe Area School District Board of Education is well aware of the problem with the sports field and has hired The Brickman Group, Allentown, to do a topographical study of the field as a first step in making necessary repairs before the next season. Those tests have been conducted on the field but the company is still processing the data it collected and its report is due back to administrators soon.
But Jaskot, who has two children in the district and tries to attend Jim Thorpe's home games with his family, said that topography is only one part of the equation. He has 25 years of experience in the industry and says there may be other reasons that the field isn't draining properly.
"The surface needs to be re-graded," Jaskot said. "Sports fields are typically crowned and tapered toward the sidelines. But that only gives you surface drainage. You also need subsurface drainage."
Effective water drainage below the surface depends upon the soil makeup and the drainage system employed, two things Jaskot could not know without a more in-depth study of the situation. So he called on his superior to find out if he could offer the District some free testing and promptly received approval.
Finch agreed to allow Jaskot to donate a core soil sample analysis that would help the district understand the makeup of the soil under the field's turf in order to create a plan that could eliminate the kinds of problems that have plagued teams playing on the field this year. The samples will tell the district how much sand, silt, clay and other materials are located under the field.
Jaskot also investigated what types of drainage pipes were currently in use for the field. He found a single 6-inch pipe but no drains at midfield. "The water has no place to go," he said.
When the reports return from the lab, Jaskot will work up specifications that will determine mathematically what diameter pipe and what row spacing will be required to keep the field dry and in good shape. He says he is proud to do this work as a taxpayer in the district, but he isn't pretending that his company wouldn't like to win the work necessary to fix the field, which he says can probably be done fairly affordably.
"We'll chase the supply when it comes out to bid like anyone else in a level playing field," he said. "But the work we've already done will save the school $15,000 in engineering costs."
The district has talked in the past about putting in an irrigation system for the sports fields. Jaskot says that if the district will be tearing up the field to make repairs anyway, this would be a good time to get that job bid out as well. His company offered to provide the bidding specifications for that job to the school. He added that the district could save a lot of money by doing this additional work now.
"In today's economic environment, contractors are hungry," he said. "If the district puts this job out to bid in the spring, it would lead to significant cost savings. Everyone wants business today and they're willing to chop margins to keep moving product."
Jaskot says the best way to approach the project in the spring would be to strip off the sod and save it, send a couple of weeks putting in the drains, another week for the irrigation system and then re-sod the field. If the school opts to grade the field without stripping the sod and then re-seed, the district will lose a whole season. He estimates the total cost of the project at around $100,000.
One thing Jaskot hopes the district will not do is install artificial turf on the high school playing field.
"Artificial turf would send our taxes through the roof," Jaskot said. "Fields start at $2 million and then liability insurance goes up as well. If you don't spray it with a disinfectant every two weeks and someone gets scratched then you'll have staff infections. You need special equipment to take care of those fields and no one on the district's staff knows how to take care of that."
Finch does work for a number of professional sports associations, including the Philadelphia Phillies. "They're all moving away from that and back to real grass because of its resiliency," Jaskot said.
Jaskot says he will be on hand to answer questions from the board about his company's analysis at the next school board meeting.