Update: Torched turf equipment leaves project behind schedule

Tuesday’s fire at Adair Kennedy Memorial Field in the Mendenhall Valley will delay the turf replacement project, but the contractor says it will be done by football season.

Juneau police and the Capital City fire marshal are investigating what appears to be vandalism of specialized equipment to be used in laying the new turf.


The old turf has been torn out; city crews are compacting the sub-base, and contractor, Shaw Sportexe, planned to begin installing new turf this week.

Instead, vandals destroyed the large Turfco spreader that disperses crumb rubber infill on the turf.

The Turfco is not something you will find in Juneau.

“Very hard to find. Not something that’s easily available in your local Home Depot,” said Shaw Sportexe field superintendent Eric Pratt.

The spreader is pulled by a small John Deere tractor. While Pratt calls the tractor “run of the mill,” its wide tires are not, a fact not lost on CBJ Project manager Catherine Wilkens.

She was on the field early Tuesday morning to assess the damage.

“You’ll notice on the John Deere tractor it has extra-wide wheels. Those are to run over the turf without leaving ruts or any of that type of thing, so not easily replaceable,” Wilkens said.

The rubber on the rear tractor tires had bubbled. The tires on the hopper were totally burned off their wheels. A big glob of unrecognizable material oozed next to the scorched hopper.

Pratt surveyed the mess, which was melted adhesive and turf seaming tape.

“This drop spreader is completely wasted. Pretty much unsalvageable at this point, except for spare parts. And the glue loss, it’s all gone…that is all the adhesive that was allotted for this project,” he said.

Pratt is from Port Townsend, Washington. He was part of the Shaw Sportexe team that installed the JDHS practice field downtown in 2005. The Georgia-based company is one of a few who specialize in synthetic turf fields. According to Shaw Sportexe website, it has installed more than 900 fields across the country, including several in Anchorage.

While CBJ project manager Wilkens said the cost of the vandalism will be covered by Shaw’s insurance, the cost to CBJ is a delay in the project. It was scheduled to be done July 15th.

Pratt said it will be done in time for football season. Practice begins July 30th.

“You know, Shaw Sportexe is going to do whatever we can to get this replaced and taken care of in a timely manner, so that kids are ready to practice come start of practice season,” he said. “Just look forward to getting it done and making sure the community has a nice field.”

Once the turf installation begins, it will take about three weeks to complete.

Increasing vandalism at city facilities
A year ago, vandals burned the old turf field in several spots, one of several incidents at the facility adjacent to Floyd Dryden Middle School.

In fact, vandalism at Juneau Parks and Recreation facilities and city buildings has steadily increased over the last few years. Parks Superintendent George Schaaf estimates vandals have cost the city nearly $60,000 so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30th.

Last year the city installed seven surveillance cameras at the Adair Kennedy concession stand and one on the field. A camera was dismantled in Tuesday morning’s vandalism and the housing found under a front-end loader on the field.

But Schaaf said footage from another camera will be useful in this case.

“We did get usable footage off of it and I turned it all over to JPD and they’re using it in their investigation,” he said.

Large rolls of turf have been staged in the parking lot at the field. They were not damaged in the incident.

A spreader was among the damaged equipment.

The spreader tires melted from the fire.

Melted Adhesive and a burnt trailer

Police are investigating the fire.

A spreader was among the damaged equipment. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

The spreader tires melted from the fire. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Adhesive and seaming tape melted along with the five-gallon buckets in which it was stored. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Police are investigating the fire. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)