Arizona State football is canceling its annual trip to Camp Tontozona due to construction delays in putting in a new artificial turf field.
Rain in the White Mountains is preventing heavy equipment from installing a shock pad and the turf on top of aggregate layers already in place.
The football team was scheduled to be at Camp Tontozona, 30 miles outside Payson, from Aug. 6-11. But Bruce Nevel, ASU associate vice president for facilities management, said Friday that it could take until September to have the new field completed, depending on weather conditions.
“Player safety comes first and foremost from an ASU football standpoint,” Jean Boyd, ASU executive senior associate athletic director said. “We’ll get it done the right way so it’s up and running going forward. This is not a departure from wanting to go to camp. It’s just mother nature had other plans.”
ASU Vice President for Athletics Ray Anderson said the delay “further exemplifies the importance of constructing the synthetic playing surface. The completion of this project will help alleviate future disturbances for our football program and our fans.”
Nevel said the artificial field, replacing grass, will drain properly once installed. The problem now is with having a flat surface to continue with construction, and that is not possible when the ground is too wet.
“This was a tough decision for our program, especially for me, who has yet to experience the mystique of Camp Tontozona,” ASU first-year football coach Herm Edwards said. “But the health of our players comes first. I’m already anticipating the experience we will have next season and the new field will help enhance the amount of work the team can accomplish during our stay at Camp T.”
Boyd said details need to be worked out regarding fan viewing opportunities during camp in Tempe. It’s uncertain if there will be a camp scrimmage.
“The coaching staff is in analysis to figure out how to replicate some of the benefits you have from camp,” Boyd said. “We’ll work hard to recreate the team building elements you benefit from up there.”
ASU football has trained at Camp Tontozona most years since 1960 with occasional absences due to heavy rain and for a few years during the Dennis Erickson coaching era.