Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Blast will
break in

The women's team will be
the first to test stadium's new
surface -- in an Aug. 3 game

Installation of the new FieldTurf surface at Aloha Stadium will be completed this week and the first football game on it is scheduled for Aug. 3, when the Pacific Blast host the Houston Energy, officials said yesterday.

It is the Blast's first Women's Professional Football League game.

"We're most definitely looking forward to it," said Blast linebacker Deborah Wicks, who suffered turf burns on the AstroTurf at Cooke Field last year when the team played as an independent. "We took a walk-through on the field and saw what it looks like a couple weekends ago."

Stadium manager Eddie Hayashi and NFL consultant George Toma said the finishing touches are being put on the $1.3 million project (paid for by the state and the NFL) today, completing more than three months of work.

The NFL-spurred effort to replace the existing AstroTurf surface came about largely because of Pro Bowl players' preference for a softer surface.

Hawaii football coach June Jones was also among those who campaigned for a new surface. He blamed numerous injuries to his players, including infections, on the AstroTurf.

An agreement was finally reached after years of slow and sometimes contentious negotiations involving the NFL, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, FieldTurf, the Stadium Authority and two Hawaii governors.

"It's supposed to be done by Thursday," Hayashi said yesterday. "It looks nice. I've walked on it a few times and it feels good."

Workers completed "top dressing" of the field yesterday, Toma said, emplacing rubber pellets that will add a cushion feel to the synthetic grass fibers.

"We're just about ready," he said. "They're going to move the stands (to football configuration) this Monday."

Concerns remain about how effective the field's drainage system will be and how hot the field might be for daytime events.

"We'll have to see how it is when it rains, a good steady rain of an inch or so," Toma said. "We know it will drain."

The question is, How quickly?

As for the temperature of the field:

"It does get warm," Toma said. "But if we have a ballgame during the day we have a water cannon we can put out there and soak the field a couple of hours before the game. The water won't make the field slippery like it would with AstroTurf."

None of UH's seven home games this season is scheduled to start before 6:05 p.m. UH's first game on the new field is the Aug. 30 season-opener against Appalachian State. Most high school games at the stadium are played in the evening, but some early games of preseason events like the Father Bray Classic have started in midafternoon.

"Our coach told us the field could be really hot," Wicks said. "But our game starts at 7 in the evening, so we're not real worried about it."

Said Blast coach James Publico: "When the sun hits the blades it really attracts the heat."

The Blast are scheduled to play five of their 10 games at Aloha Stadium.

The team has a season kickoff party scheduled for 4-9 p.m. Sunday at Volcanoes night club. See the team's Web site at for more information.


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