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A NEW ERA

Upgraded playing surface improves safety, quality

The finishing touches have been applied to this summer’s Dodger Stadium turf project, and while the visuals are aesthetically pleasing, both safety and practicality were the driving forces behind the Fort Dodge Community School District’s commitment to the upgrade.

FDCSD superintendent Dr. Jesse Ulrich said the new playing surface — installed by Midwest FieldTurf of Denison, which also put the original turf in at the iconic Fort Dodge complex 12 years ago — represents the community’s ongoing effort to keep Dodger Stadium at the forefront of the state’s best game-day experiences.

“This is something that should make all of Fort Dodge’s proud, given it’s the home of the Dodgers, Gaels and Tritons,” Ulrich said. “Dodger Stadium is a true landmark, not just to our community, but for all of Iowa. It’s a really exciting project; the field looks terrific, obviously, but it’s also much safer and of better quality for the student-athletes who will be using it. And that’s always going to be our top priority, especially given the number of games being played there on a yearly basis.”

New Dodger head coach Nik Moser — a former FDSH all-state standout and starting defensive back at Iowa State University — added, “there aren’t many high schools in the midwest who get to play, and more importantly practice, on a field like this one.”

“We are incredibly fortunate, and I want to make sure to thank Dr. Ulrich, the school board and the district for making this (extended) commitment (to upgrading the turf),” Moser said. “The biggest benefit to us isn’t just Friday nights — it’s Monday through Thursday, in (preparation for games). This is a softer, safer surface, both because the technology has made the product better (since the original installation in 2008) and we get to start from scratch with a new field (for 2020).

“We definitely got our money’s worth with the old turf. Playing on it for 12 seasons, with as many teams as we have using it, was a real vote of confidence for the kind of work Midwest FieldTurf does.”

The colors in both end zones have been reversed, from black with red lettering to red with black. A new Fort Dodge Dodger logo spans the center of the field, as well as shaded ‘mower’ strips every five yards, junior college hashmarks to meet Iowa Central’s standards, and the long jump pit in the north semi-circle for track.

“It really pops,” Moser said. “The look, to me, speaks for itself. But more importantly, it’s going to have a significant impact on players’ bodies in a positive way, which will benefit everyone involved.”

The project cost approximately $850,000 to complete. Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funding was used to cover a significant portion of the bill.

“The typical life expectancy of field turf usually falls in the 8- to 10-year range,” Ulrich said. “So for us to reach 12 full seasons, given all of our activities as well as football for St. Edmond and Iowa Central, has been a great return on investment.

“This has always been about being safer for our kids and more efficient for our (maintenance) staff.”

Ulrich also confirmed that a turf grooming system was purchased by the district, which will “maintain the looseness and softness of the field and allow for better wear over time.” Instead of being groomed once a year, the field will be brushed three or four times annually.

Fort Dodge Senior High’s 2020 graduation ceremony, scheduled for this Sunday night, will be the first official event on the surface.

Midwest FieldTurf lists nearly 50 Iowa venues on its website, including turf projects at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City; Drake University; Buena Vista University; Grand View University; Morningside College; Wartburg College; Coe College; Williams Stadium in Des Moines; Davenport’s Brady Street Stadium; Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids; Ankeny Centennial; West Des Moines Valley; Johnston; Urbandale and Waukee. A number of Nebraska and South Dakota facilities are included as well.

Fort Dodge’s 2020 football home opener is scheduled for Aug. 28 against Ames. St. Edmond is slated to face Clarion-Goldfield/Dows the following Friday, Sept. 4.

This fall will mark the 80th anniversary of football at Dodger Stadium. The first game at the complex — originally erected as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) plan — took place on Oct. 4, 1940.

In the years prior to the stadium’s completion, Fort Dodge played its home contests at Duncombe Field — an adjacent property to Duncombe Elementary School.

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