While the rest of Southern Arizona sweats, officials at Flowing Wells High School are playing in the sprinklers.

The school has installed an extensive irrigation system designed to save water and improve efficiency over 16 acres of baseball and softball fields.

The modern, programmable system is the centerpiece of a $650,000, bond-funded project designed to improve the school's athletic facilities.

Crews spread grass seed over the affected areas last week with hopes that a root structure grows before the monsoon season starts. The next few months will be spent building snack bars, restrooms and "shade areas" to keep fans cool during the spring.

"We've always had a nice setting and field," Caballeros baseball coach David Landrith said. "This will really add to the baseball atmosphere. It's going to make the field, which has always been nice, even better. When you get there, you'll feel like, 'Hey, I'm in a ballpark.'"

Flowing Wells' new project means:

• Nicer fields. For years, the water at Flowing Wells didn't, well, flow.

An outdated sprinkler system was clunky to operate and inefficient, athletic director Pat Weber said. Maintenance crews turned the water on and off at valves buried on the fields; separate cycles meant water was running as much as 21 hours a day.

The new system is completely programmable - and more efficient. Dan Scheller, the Flowing Wells Unified School District's director of maintenance, said a new "booster pump" - and smarter scheduling - will cut water use by one-third.

"That's really significant," he said. "Now, every square inch of that 16 acres is going to get irrigation."

• Smoother practices. Flowing Wells used the irrigation project as a chance to reconfigure its junior varsity baseball field and construct a practice infield.

Future teams will be able to take batting practice on one field and infield practice on the other, Weber said. The Caballeros' junior varsity and varsity teams will be able to practice at the same time, with room to spare.

• Happier fans. The addition of snack bars, restrooms and "shade areas" should make for a better game-day experience for fans.

Fans in past years had to use "honey huts" located near the bleachers. The new bathrooms, located in a common area between the stadiums, will serve both baseball and softball fans. The facilities will be used for, ahem, overflow during home football games.

Construction should be finished by the time classes start this fall.

"There's an aesthetic value," Scheller said. "Enhancing the programs with snack bars, changing the orientation of the JV field and adding the irrigation. … It just adds another dimension."



Cost of Flowing Wells' summer irrigation overhaul


Acres of grass affected by the new irrigation system