-By Richard Urban
Only 48 hours after the TCU and Cal football teams finished an overtime battle in the Cheez-It® Bowl, 80,000 square feet of turf had been taken up from the stadium floor.
Hash marks, cleat marks, Cheez-It logos and all was loaded onto a dozen flatbed trailers and hauled 200 miles to Bullhead City, Arizona, where it was laid onto a plot of land that the community had spent thousands of dollars and many weeks preparing.
Finally, nearly three months later, the divots and field markings are replaced by a pristine, emerald playing field, where the community and Fiesta Bowl organization representatives gathered to dedicate and celebrate the first game played on the surface.
“It’s such an incredible opportunity, because it’s not the kind of investment we would have been able to make if the Fiesta Bowl Legacy Project didn’t come along,” says David Heath, the Bullhead City Parks & Recreation Superintendent.
The Bullhead City project, a cooperative venture between Fiesta Bowl Charities and the BHHS Legacy Foundation, was the fourth game field installation since the program began. The Fiesta Bowl organization identifies communities in need and then works to transport the Cheez-It Bowl turf. Maryville, Avondale and Laveen were earlier beneficiaries.
“We have this beautiful turf that we bring in to transform Chase Field’s baseball diamond into a football field. Rather than just tossing it, we recycle it and donate to somebody in need,” says Jose Moreno, the Fiesta Bowl’s vice president of community relations and marketing.
Bullhead City shared its need and subsequently was chosen in November.
“It was a no-brainer when we started to do the due diligence of the need of that community,” Moreno says.
The old field in Bullhead City had been used for Pop Warner football games for about 25 years. However, that plot of land had soil that was mostly clay and didn’t drain well. Earlier irrigation systems never quite worked out.
“That field has been, without a doubt, the most difficult piece of land on which to grow grass in our city’s history,” Heath says.
Preparing the site was not easy. About four feet of soil was dug out and replaced with soil more conducive to growing grass, and a new irrigation system was put in.
“When we do this, we plan it out three to four months in advance,” Moreno says. “Each community is a little different. Some might need a lot of prep work, some might not.”
This one needed a lot, and the entire community pitched in: the city, community and civic organizations and even a soccer club that runs a tournament and hopes to use the field for its events.
“We invest well over $100,000 to upgrade whatever they might need,” Moreno said. “This was a facility that had been there for quite some time. So, the community stepped up and said how can we help.”
“We pride ourselves in our park system and how great our parks and our fields are,” Heath says. “We’re bringing this field up to par with what we have in our whole park system, and it’ll be the best thing we have in our parks system now. It went from being the worst to being the best.”
Looking ahead, Bullhead City hopes the new field will anchor efforts to promote sports tourism.
“Sport tourism works well in this community,” Heath says. “We’re probably going to promote more of that. It’s going to be great for our locals as well. They have a perfect place on which to practice and play games and we’re pretty excited for them.”
And now, after the stories told of college athletes competing on this field for the Cheez-It Bowl have faded, the communities with the new fields can begin to build their own legacies.
“You never know, a future Heisman Trophy winner might come from someone who plays on this field, someone who may not have had an opportunity otherwise,” Moreno says.