IOWA CITY — The flood event that’s forcing the University of Iowa to replace its new $426,725 Revolution 360 artificial turf system inside Kinnick Stadium pummeled the region — including the Hawkeye gridiron — on Aug. 28, just days before the university’s home opener against Northern Illinois University.
At the time, onlookers from neighboring UI Hospitals and Clinics tweeted photos showing the just 1-year-old turf almost entirely under water — with spots apparently bubbling, drawing “Yikes!!!” and similar comments from across the internet.
“Please say we don’t have to move the game to Ames,” one person wrote.
In short order, UI Athletics issued a statement acknowledging the Kinnick flooding but reporting it had drained. Media outlets the next day reported UI affirmations that “everything is fine,” with crews cleaning and preparing the surface for the opening game — which went off as planned, drawing a crowd of more than 67,500.
The university didn’t alter its 2018 home schedule, and Athletic Director Gary Barta said recently, “The affected area from last summer was 100 percent repaired and safe for play in 2018.”
Still, he said, the university now has a “long-term need to replace the turf,” which it installed just two years ago, and officials confirmed for The Gazette the flooding caused an estimated $580,000 in damage. That, officials said, includes the immediate restoration last summer to make the field playable through the fall along with long-term turf replacement and subsurface work.
The replacement project involves two contracts — one with FieldTurf USA Inc., which installed the turf in 2017 as part of an $89 million north end zone renovation. Because FieldTurf subcontracted on that project, the UI didn’t hold a separate, stand-alone contract with the international company.
Under a new agreement with FieldTurf, however, the UI is paying the company about $478,340 to rip up and replace the turf it laid down — a project the university didn’t publicly bid. Instead, the university issued a contract to FieldTurf using an existing competitively solicited cooperative contract held by Sourcewell.
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Sourcewell is a Minnesota-based government agency authorized to provide cooperative purchasing services to eligible state and local governments, education and nonprofit entities across North America.
UI officials told The Gazette that Iowa Code lets UI use Sourcewell contracts and pricing for its projects under a section allowing collaboration and cooperation on “joint purchases of general use items that present opportunities to obtain quality goods and services at the lowest reasonable cost.”
The second portion of the turf work — involving investigation of the existing stone base, textile and subdrain materials; removing and replacing the base; jetting storm sewer and subdrains; and installing backflow valves — went out for public bid last week.
The bid date on that project is April 11, and documents indicate the damaged turf will be gone by April 20. Whoever is hired for the subsurface work must start April 22 and wrap by June 21, with new turf installation planned for June 24.
Bid documents lay out details of the UI contract with FieldTurf, which the university didn’t immediately provide to The Gazette in full. According to a resurfacing portion of the documents, FieldTurf must provide a grasslike system that includes “grasslike traction, energy restitution, ball rebound and shock attenuation.”
“The turf shall provide a stable surface for play, with little infill displacement in use and shall be ideal for a variety of sports in all weather conditions without special footwear,” according to the contract.
When FieldTurf two years ago installed the new surface in Kinnick — replacing its old Duraspine artificial field from 2009 — it was facing more than a dozen lawsuits, including several seeking class-action status. The lawsuits accused FieldTurf of fraud, among other things, and an NJ Advance Media investigation found FieldTurf marketed Duraspine as lasting more than a decade, even as the company knew the turf was falling apart.
The company’s executives have cited intense sun exposure as the cause of some of the turf deterioration.
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According to the UI bid documents on its turf replacement, the product manufacturer shall provide a warranty covering defects in materials and workmanship for eight years — including breakdown from sun exposure. The warranty must include provisions to repair or replace any portions of the system that need it. And the entire system must be resistant to “rot, mold, insects, microbial attack, and shall be non-toxic to humans.”
“The warranty shall specifically exclude vandalism, and acts of God beyond the control of the owner or the manufacturer,” according to the documents.
UI officials have said they’re submitting an insurance claim to cover the field’s flood-event costs.
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