The turf athletic field and surrounding track at Waterloo High School may have been irreparably damaged by flooding, Superintendent Brian Charron told the Waterloo School Board at its meeting Monday night.
The downpours last week caused water and silt from an adjoining farmer’s fields to the south and west of the complex to pour over the berm protecting the field and overwhelm the drainage system, resulting in water covering the entire turf field and several lanes of the track.
“If there was ever a season not to have fall sports, this was it because I really don’t know what we would do,” Charron said.
The Illinois High School Association said the Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday officially approved its modified sports schedule that moves higher risk contact sports like football and boys soccer, which play on the turf at WHS, from the fall to the spring due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
The athletic field, which is at a lower elevation than the farmer’s fields, has flooded about six times before, with this being the second major flooding event.
The previous time, the water came from another nearby field.
When the WHS campus was designed over a decade ago, however, weather patterns were different.
Now, it is more common for the area to see no rain for a long stretch of time and get an abundance of rain in a short period.
That causes the water and silt to overpower the protections against flooding at the field and track.
For the field, Charron said the water and silt clogs up the drainage underneath the turf, infiltrates the turf and hardens it and separates the turf in places.
“This time, it’s more than just silt,” he continued. “There’s concern that it may have eroded some of what’s underneath the turf. If we were to have any sort of use out there right now, kids would be turning ankles in very unsuspecting places.”
“There are small voids under the turf right now, and we don’t know what’s happened under there,” Charron added.
The silt is the main problem for the track because it gets in the track and cuts grooves when people use it.
“It will destroy the track,” Charron summed up.
Charron said the insurance company will cover fixing the damage, which Charron said he expects will require the track and field’s top layers to be replaced.
The school district must now get bids from at least three companies to repair or replace the field and track. It will then contact the insurance company again to determine the next step.
Charron said he would know more about the timeline for repairs in about two weeks, but did not anticipate the work being done until the spring because of how long it takes to get the work started and weather requirements for the materials being installed.
Although the insurance company will cover the work this time, Charron said that given the history of problems, the district should examine ways to prevent catastrophic flooding again.
He said that could involve building a levee around the complex or moving it to another part of the property at WHS.
“I don’t care to brainstorm publicly about possible solutions because I don’t know where this is going to go,” Charron said.