Turf wars: U. of U., BYU to get new fields
Considering that BYU's football field has remained virtually the same for 28 years and the field at the University of Utah just turned seven, it is probably just a coincidence both will undergo major renovations this spring.
What isn't a twist of fate is that when fans enter Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sept. 3 to watch the Utes host to Utah State, or when fans enter LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sept. 19 to watch the Cougars play Florida State, they will see new, improved surfaces.
"It's going to be exciting," said BYU quarterback Max Hall, whose team gave up its annual spring game because of the renovations at LES. "The [old] field wasn't bad, but it did need some work."
Former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson said last fall he would prefer to play on natural grass, but wait until he sees the new, bright red end zones with white "UTAH" letters trimmed in black at Rice-Eccles, said Steve Pyne, Utah's events and facilities director.
"That is what will really stand out," Pyne said.
BYU hasn't lost a home football game since 2005, while Utah was 33-7 since its FieldTurf was installed in 2002, but both schools say a change is warranted -- for different reasons.
BYU's field had simply become outdated.
Roy Peterman, BYU's director of grounds maintenance, said the major reason for the renovation was that Annual Bluegrass, considered a weed by those in the industry, "had crept in and compromised the field."
At the suggestion of coach Bronco Mendenhall, BYU maintenance enlisted the help of Bryan Hopkins, a BYU professor who helped redo fields at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium and Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High, and tennis courts at Wimbledon.
Peterman said the new grass is a five-blend mix of premium grasses, including "state-of-the-art hybrids" from California, which are designed to help the field hold together and are resistant to weather change.
Because the old drainage system under the field had been damaged by deep aeration, it was also replaced. A layer of gravel was covered by 8.5 inches of sand, with the sod laid over the sand and gravel.
Peterman said the field will now take more than 20 inches of rain per hour without pooling on the surface.
A synthetic surface was installed outside the natural grass playing surface (behind the end zones and on the sidelines).
Most of the labor was done by student employees who work for BYU grounds maintenance.
The project's cost, which BYU won't divulge, was covered by the school's routine maintenance program and not by the athletic department.
The project will be completed prior to a Fourth of July celebration at the stadium.
Utah's project should be completed in early June, Pyne said, at an estimated cost of between $700,000 and $900,000.
The Real Salt Lake soccer team will pay half of the cost as part of an agreement when it began playing at Rice-Eccles.
"A lot of the scrubbing of the lines, from soccer, has put a lot of stress on the field. We just feel like it is a good time, with Real's money and the University agreeing to do it," Pyne said.
He said the old playing surface, designed to last about 10 years, wasn't worn out, it just appeared that way because of soccer and other activities, such as the April 26 Supercross event.
"Red end zones will be the biggest difference," Pyne said. "Same color, same logo in the center of the field. It will just be more brilliant because it is new."
Said Utes coach Kyle Whittingham: "It's a great product, and the new surface will only add to what we feel is already one of the finest football stadiums in the country."
What They Did
What » First major field renovation in 28 years lowered crown in the middle of the field, replaced every blade of grass with natural grass and put artificial turf behind the end zones and on the sidelines
Why » The crown was too high and the grass was simply old and had become overrun with Annual Bluegrass, which is actually considered a weed.
What » FieldTurf installed in 2002 has been stripped and replaced with a new version of FieldTurf. End zones are now red (rather than green), but the midfield logo will remain the block U.
Why » Although the 7-year-old FieldTurf was not worn out, it appeared that way due to the scrubbing of lines from Real Salt Lake soccer using the field.