It's no secret the football field, which doubles as the soccer field at Reed, is among the worst fields in northern Nevada. RHS athletic officials have been busy working with groundskeepers to strategize and put a plan into effect about the best way to rejuvenate the playing surface on the east Sparks school's football/soccer field.
"That's really our focus right now," Raiders athletic director Ron Coombs said. "We got the rocks back out there and those are there to discourage the weekend warriors. Reed is seemingly at times used as a public park. People find their way onto our field. The rocks are designed to keep people off. We're also doing some fertilizing with seeding."
Grass struggles to grow on much of Reed's field. That leaves weeds in place of grass and leads to many large bare patches of playing surface. Poor maintenance practices in the past and inadequate drainage issues are big reasons why the quality of the Raiders' facility falls far short of the Raiders' quality football product on the field.
Reed's football team is the winningest program in northern Nevada over the past decade but while the RHS gridders gain even more consistent success, the field is consistently poor. Still, veteran Reed football coach Ernie Howren said the playing surface does not affect what his team can do under the lights on fall Friday nights.
"It doesn't affect us," he said. "It's just a little disappointing, more of a pride thing. We'd like to have our facility look better, especially for who is out there working so hard, our football and soccer players. But, that's where we're at right now. There's not a lot of money in the district and the kind of money we're talking about is something nobody has right now."
Coombs believes there are multiple factors that have led to the degradation of Reed's facility. The first is the school district's decision over a decade ago to use effluent water rather than fresh water on the field's sod. Coombs cited soil specialists who have shared with him that the field has a top layer of high salt concentration, due to using effluent water.
In order to break up that high salt concentration, Reed's grounds staff has been overwatering the fields and over-seeding areas. Still, Coombs wonders how effective that can be if the same effluent water is still being used.
"That salt layer needs to be broken up," Coombs said. "On the advice of the district, we've done what is called salt flushing. We're overwatering to try and flush that out. We're really just trying to break up the soil so it can breathe and grass seed can germinate.
"But I asked the same question. Are we breaking up that layer by using the same effluent water? There probably will be some negative effect too, but it's what we've got. We've got to break up that ground because right now with that salt layer, we can't get great root growth."
The salt buildup has not been helped by poor drainage at the RHS complex. Reed's playing surface and the track that surrounds it are separated by a concrete rail. Coombs said that ring around the field is unique to Reed and he believes it keeps the field from draining properly. Additionally, football/soccer fields should have a crest down the center, allowing water to run off toward each sideline. Reed's field has no crest.
"Grass can grow on that field," Coombs said. "There are areas that are lush, but another problem we have is there are peaks and valleys. It's an undulating field that doesn't have a high crown in the center. We've got areas in great shape grass-wise, and then 10 feet away, we have areas of desert. Officials from the district have been out for five or six meetings with us in the past four years. One of the things we've talked about is getting the field re-crowned. It's something we've talked about to make this field better, but that's going to take some money."
Reed football has six home games scheduled for the upcoming fall season. With the home-heavy slate, Coombs is hoping the Raiders' athletic department can raise extra funds this fall and use the new revenues to re-sod the field, if not fully, at least partially.
"I've had conversations with our groundskeepers. They're trying to get it up and ready for fall," Coombs said. "That's the main goal right now. After that, we're hoping to take money from our gate receipts and we should have money to replace some turf areas."
Coombs, Howren and everyone else invested in the RHS facility are doing their best to be optimistic about the future.
"Our plan is to hopefully go out, have a great season, get some home playoff games and maintain the field as best we can over the three and a half months," Coombs said. "Our groundskeepers did it last year. There's no reason, they can't do it this year too."
*In other news at Reed, the school's large gym is closed due to a re-surfacing project.
"My understanding is that as far as capital projects go, the district is not doing a whole lot until a final budget is approved and it knows what it's got going to the new school year," Coombs said. "Our basketball and volleyball floor has areas that need attention. Our (re-surfacing) rotation was up this year so we're still doing the repairs and refinishing right now."
Coombs said the school has also purchased a solar-power scoreboard for the new on-campus softball field that opened in the spring of 2012. The Raiders AD said it was cost-inhibitive to run power from the school to the field thus the solar option was chosen.
"We have the new scoreboard on site right now," Coombs said. "It came in three days after our softball team got back from state. It's in our possession. We'll have that up and running for next softball season.
"We went with the solar scoreboard because of challenges to running electricity. If you've got to dig from the school, you're talking tens of thousands of dollars. With this solar one, another nice thing about it is we can pull it down at the end of the season and store it."