As Purdue officials move closer to determining the final look for Ross-Ade Stadium's south end zone, one area that will get a closer examination is the playing surface. The harsh winter has impacted the recovery time for the Bermuda grass to the point where athletic director Morgan Burke is exploring the idea of switching to synthetic turf. The grass practice field also is struggling to recover.
Purdue considering synthetic turf after tough winter for bermudagrass
As Purdue officials move closer to determining the final look for Ross-Ade Stadium’s south end zone, one area that will get a closer examination is the playing surface.
The harsh winter has impacted the recovery time for the Bermuda grass to the point where athletic director Morgan Burke is exploring the idea of switching to Field Turf. The grass practice field also is struggling to recover.
“I’ve asked them to update the study when the Bermuda went in – which is to look at the cost and benefits of Bermuda vs. Field Turf. There’s arguments on both sides. I’m not saying we’ll do it or won’t do it but I think we would be remiss if we didn’t look at it,” Burke said.
Ross-Ade Stadium is used throughout the year, hosting weddings, meetings and other events in the Shively and Buchanan Clubs. Plus, coach Darrell Hazell and his coaching staff show recruits the field and right now the turf isn’t an appealing selling point.
Hazell can’t afford any deficiencies as he attempts to pull the program out of the Big Ten basement and attract the best possible recruits.
“It just doesn’t look very good,” Burke said. “This year, it was tough because of the winter. We’re right now having to go through extraordinary hoops to get things repaired. Everybody in the country has got problems with Bermuda grass right now, at least in the northern climate. There’s a shortage of equipment to get this stuff moved around.”
It reminds me of the story Purdue baseball coach Doug Schreiber used to tell. While taking recruits on tour of campus, the last thing he showed them was Lambert Field because it lacked the amenities of other stadiums around the Big Ten. He doesn’t have that issue anymore since Alexander Field was built.
This isn’t the first time Purdue has considered switching to Field Turf. After the 2005 season, Burke and then-head coach Joe Tiller studied a long-term solution after chunks of sod came up and impacted playing conditions. The school installed a cold-tolerant strain of Bermuda grass prior to the 2006 season.
Burke said the school’s agriculture history plays a role, but won’t be the overriding factor in the final decision.
“We’re an Ag school; we’re proud of being able to grow grass,” he said. “On the other hand, times change and we would be remiss if we didn’t at least include it in the scope of the review.”
The final south end zone project has three elements:
The technology component includes two video boards, one ribbon scoreboard and an upgrade to the sound system. Burke also will look at installing permanent lights as opposed to using portable lighting for a night game. Those lights are paid by the television networks.
The maintenance component includes possibly switching to Field Turf but repairs to the steel, restoring concrete in some areas and painting that needs to be done.
The third component is a different seating option in the end zone. While some fans have expressed to Burke about enclosing the south end zone, that area allows for people to move out of the stadium in case of an evacuation.
“When you have a storm that’s how we empty the stadium,” Burke said. “You might be able to come up with tunnels big enough to be able to meet the code, I don’t know.”