PNG Field getting new surface

09/25/17 By Gary M. Baranec Workers remove the turf in right field at People's Natural Gas Field Monday afternoon

As good as the Curve players looked on the field this season in winning the Eastern League title, the grass itself at Peoples Natural Gas Field wasn’t nearly as appealing.

With dead spots covering several large areas of grass, it was obvious the Curve needed a new playing surface. Now they’re getting one.

Work began Monday on installing new grass for the outfield and infield, as well as new irrigation for the outfield. The project is expected to take 10 days to complete and will cost about $300,000, according to general manager Derek Martin.

The cost is being covered by a ballpark improvement fund agreed upon last year by team owners, Blair County, Lakemont Partnership, Blair Convention Center and Sports Facility Authority, and Altoona/Blair County Development Corp.

“It needed to be replaced,” Martin said of the grass.

“As you saw, there’s a disease called Poa that spread through the entire field. Poa basically uproots the grass so it becomes a safety measure for the players because it basically brings the roots out of the ground and makes it unsafe. So it needed to happen.”

Martin said manager Michael Ryan did not complain about the grass. But for much of the season, the dead spots were an eyesore in an otherwise well-maintained ballpark.

Making matters more difficult, the Curve’s head groundskeeper left for another job in March before the season started, the replacement stayed only through June before returning home to Arizona, and the team promoted an assistant to handle the final two months.

The Curve just brought in a new head groundskeeper, Chris Mason, who has seven years’ experience and most recently was with the West Virginia Power. He started on Monday.

“It was definitely noticeable,” Martin said of the grass problems. “We take pride and our fans take pride … in the cosmetic look. We take that into close consideration because our fans deserve the best, our players deserve the best, and that’s what we want to provided to them.”

The playing surface was last replaced in 2009, when all new grass, clay and irrigation were brought in. This time around, the Curve are just replacing the main irrigation with new valves and new heads, Martin said. The new grass has a lifespan of about nine years.

The Curve will be celebrating their 20th season in 2018, and having new grass should make for more pleasant visuals at PNG Field.

“Going into the 20th anniversary it’s a big season for us, a big season for the city of Altoona, our community,” Martin said. “It’s a nice addition that we can provide working with the county.”