Sept. 1 2008 12:00 AM

THE BASEBALL FIELD AT ROCKFORD High School in Rockford, Minnesota, had been a wasteland for years. The ground was cracked and dry, the surrounding area was practically devoid of grass, and what little grass existed was as shriveled as old husk.

Everyone knew what the problem was: the field had no irrigation system of its own. Only 1,000 feet away, the school’s football field thrived, watered regularly by a conventionally wired system. But the school simply didn’t have the budget to add the amount of wiring required to keep its baseball field properly irrigated. The most anyone could do for it was drag a small garden hose over and spray the pitcher’s mound, but this had little to no effect.

Brian Fieldseth had played baseball on this very same field when he was in high school. He knew firsthand how difficult it was to round its rock-hard bases without losing his footing. So when his landscape company, Carefree Lawn and Sprinklers, was hired by the school to look for a solution, his investment in finding one was all the greater.

“The school had received a handful of bids for the project,” says Fieldseth, “but most of those bidders came in and looked at it the traditional way. They were thinking in terms of multi-wire systems. When I came in to take a look, the first thing that popped up in my head was 2-wire.”

The big difference between multi-wire and 2-wire systems, especially when it comes to clients’ budgets, is the amount of wire used. A traditional multi-wire system will use a single “ground” wire to connect a group of valves to a controller; then it will run separate wires from the controller to each and every valve. So for a large site made up of, say, 50 valves each at a distance of 500 feet from the controller, this means the contractor would have to lay 50 wires that are 500 feet in length, plus the ground wire. A system like this can be astonishingly pricey, particularly now as the price of copper in the wire continues to soar.

On the other hand, 2-wire cuts back drastically on the amount of wiring needed, running just a single pair of wires from the controller to the first valve. That pair of wires will then run from the first valve to the second valve, from the second valve to the third valve and so on. With only two wires as opposed to many, 2-wire is a practical route for anyone looking to keep things simple and cost effective.

11.jpgIn the case of Rockford High School, Fieldseth had to find a way to add a 2-wire path to the existing multi-wire system if he wanted to accommodate the school’s budget. He installed a major brand-name controller and added Underhill’s 2Wire decoders. His team ran a 2- wire path from the controller into the baseball field itself, trenching the ground in order to install the wire. “The multi-wire path that was already there ran from the controller to the football field and the new 2-wire path went from the controller to the baseball field,” says Fieldseth. “We ended up saving the client a boatload of money right off the bat.”

By adding Underhill’s decoder module into the controller and then adding 2Wire decoders to each valve in the baseball field to receive and implement instructions to turn the sprinklers on, Fieldseth expanded the school’s irrigation system and gave its baseball field the life it had needed for so many years. These days, students are eager to run from base to base on the field’s moist, healthy soil.

“The beauty of our decoders is that they can be retrofitted into most of the major brand professional controllers,” says Ed Underhill, president of Underhill International. “With budgets getting tighter, we have an opportunity to solve irrigation problems with 2- wire systems.”

“It’s like a whole new field,” says Fieldseth. “I just wish we’d had it irrigated when I was going to school there.”