PULLMAN, Wash. - The next time Washington State University football players step on the field of Martin Stadium, they will be working out on a new artificial turf.
On April 17, 2000, construction crews begin the three-month process of installing FieldTurf on the floor of both Martin Stadium and the adjacent Rogers Field practice facility, according to Marcia Saneholtz, WSU's interim athletic director.
"The keys in selecting FieldTurf included a reduction in maintenance, especially on the practice facility, and the belief this surface will help reduce injuries," Saneholtz said. "We wanted a surface that will play more like grass and FieldTurf fits that requirement."
FieldTurf is the latest innovation in artificial playing surfaces and to date is the closest product to real grass, according to WSU Assistant Athletic Director Jon Oliver. The Canadian company's manufacturing headquarters are in Dalton, Ga.
WSU is the second Division I university to install FieldTurf as a full-time playing surface in a football stadium. The University of Nebraska installed the same turf a year ago and recommended the turf to WSU officials after the Huskers completed their 1999 season with positive reviews of the new product.
"I am suggesting it will reduce our injuries because we spend so much time on the practice field and this new turf will be level, soft and provide a consistent footing," offered WSU head football coach Mike Price. "We won't have turf burns and players will be able to layout without worrying about injuries that are the result of banging on a hard turf. It is a great move for the health of our players."
"Given the limitations due to our climate and the need to maximize the use of the field, we examined artificial surfaces that could get us close to the properties of grass," Oliver commented. "We looked at numerous products and fields and determined that a synthetic surface with a sand/rubber in-fill best met our needs." Oliver said other campus entities will continue to use the facility, including the WSU Marching Band, classes and intramurals.
"Several people from WSU looked at Nebraska's field as well as numerous play fields in the Portland and Seattle areas that had recently installed the same turf," Oliver continued. "We ultimately decided we would need to go with a product that had a track record with a (NCAA) Division I program."
The total cost of installing FieldTurf in both facilities is $1.813 million, according to Oliver. The WSU Athletic Department will cover costs of installing the turf at the Rogers Field practice facility, while three university sources, Athletics, Student & Activity Fees and the University's minor capital budget, will share in the cost of replacing the Martin Stadium turf. "Based on the level of discount from FieldTurf, we will be able to replace both fields for slightly more than the cost of installing a conventional turf product on one field," Oliver noted.
"FieldTurf is nearly identical to grass in its quality of play, but provides durability and the low maintenance of a carpet-like artificial surface," according to Oliver. "We believe FieldTurf best provides the benefits of both grass and a more conventional artificial surface. Professional football scouts rate this surface slightly faster than grass for timing purposes."
The 2.5-inch slick-feeling blades of FieldTurf are a combination of polyurethane and polypropylene and rest on a 200,000 pound base of cryogenically-ground scrap rubber and silica sand. The rubber is comprised of recycled tires and Nike shoes. The blades are resistant to extremes in temperature and have an ultraviolet protection to help resist fading.
The new surface, which is insured for eight years by Lloyds of London, is capable of draining 60-70 inches of water per hour. The field is maintained by performing periodic motorized sweeping. While no crown is needed, a slight crown will be installed to prevent the illusion of a concave field. Motley and Motley Construction of Pullman will serve as the project's general contractor, Oliver said.
Martin Stadium, originally built in 1936 at its present location, used a grass playing field until 1970. After fire destroyed the south stands, the stadium was refurbished and opened in 1972 with an Astroturf surface. A newer version of the same turf was installed in 1979 after stadium expansion increased the capacity to 40,000 seats. Since 1990, a sand-filled surface, Omni-Turf, has been used.
For more on FieldTurf, see their web site at www.fieldturf.com