NU putting new surface on practice, Lakefill field

Lily Leung

NU putting new surface on practice, Lakefill field

By Lily Leung

The Daily Northwestern

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow should keep several Northwestern varsity teams from practicing once a state-of-the-art surface is installed on the lighted football practice field.

In a project that probably will cost at least $500,000, the NU Athletic Department plans to install a new synthetic turf on the practice grounds adjacent to Ryan Field, allowing the football, soccer and lacrosse teams to practice year-round, said Director of Athletics Mark Murphy.

“The new turf has been out for awhile but it’s been progressing very rapidly,” Murphy said. “It plays just like grass, it’s player-friendly and it looks like grass.”

The athletic department also has begun another field renovation project — the installation of new AstroTurf on the field hockey field at the Lakefill. Plans on the Lakefill also include lengthening the southern end of the field hockey field to meet NCAA regulations for lacrosse play.

Work on the Lakeside field began Monday, but plans for the football practice field have not been finalized, Murphy said. The department is reviewing bids from three synthetic turf companies, and will reach a decision this week. Together the projects will cost about $1 million and are funded by private donations. They will take about two months to complete.

Murphy said the installation of this new turf will ease NU’s field space problem. With the synthetic turf’s resistance to wear-and-tear, the football team, men’s and women’s soccer teams and the lacrosse team each will be able to use the football practice field after it is refurbished. The baseball and softball teams also will be allowed to play on it for certain practice purposes.

“We are landlocked,” Murphy said. “We wanted to do the lit (football) field because the (football) team will see a lot of advantages and we could get more use out of (the field) since it will be used by a number of teams.”

The new type of turf — made famous by the company FieldTurf — originally was on the market for golf fields in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but in 1999, Nebraska used the product for its football field. Since then, the NFL, MLB and college teams have used it for their stadiums.

“This material holds up pretty well,” Murphy said. “The NFL did a survey and people said they preferred the surface better.”

The surface’s anatomy involves an absorbent, artificial surface that allows for drainage and a rubber layer made from crushed tires, which makes the surface bouncy.

Because of its composition, the turf can be played on in wet or dry conditions without the surface getting soggy. Murphy said NU will save “quite a bit in maintenance costs” by going with this field option because there is no need to mow or water the turf.

“If it snows or if it rains, there’s no damage done to the field,” Murphy said. “Another advantage is that if it snows five inches, we can just plow it off. You can’t do that with a grass field.”

The new turf alternative also provides athletes with health benefits.

“We know it is a softer surface and that it acts more like grass,” NU Director of Sports Medicine Tory Lindley said. “It gives off more coefficient friction and it has more grip with shoes than grass does.”

Men’s soccer coach Tim Lenahan said he and his team are aware of the newer turf’s benefits. The team often practices on a field in Chicago with similar turf.

“By constantly practicing on (the grass) field, you can destroy it,” Lenahan said. “It’s a surface that you can play on every day with multiple teams using it. There’s no wear-and-tear and I can’t imagine seeing that on the regular field.”