Reno trip gives UH sneak peek at new turf
RENO, Nev. » There don't seem to be many problems with securing funding for and executing facility projects at the University of Nevada, athletic and otherwise.
People who visit the Reno campus once every year or so since the turn of the millennium see new projects and enhancements to old buildings each time.
In 2006, it was Peccole Park's turn, as the Wolf Pack baseball stadium got a facelift, with lights, fencing and a FieldTurf playing surface. The new artificial grass was installed at a price of $1.6 million.
FieldTurf (which is the surface at Aloha Stadium) is nothing new on Nevada's campus. It is also the football surface at Mackay Stadium, as well as the football practice field. Even John Sala Intramural Field, where everyday students compete in things like Ultimate Frisbee, is covered with FieldTurf.
The surface is durable, drains water well and is easier on athletes' bodies than other types of artificial turf.
Peccole Park is the site of the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament that started today, and Hawaii is one of six teams that practiced there yesterday and begins tournament play today. The Rainbows also just completed a series against the Wolf Pack there two weeks ago.
The playing field is of special interest to the Rainbows, since they will likely be playing their home games at Les Murakami Stadium on FieldTurf beginning next season.
Last week, Gov. Linda Lingle released $2 million for renovating the stadium, including replacing the old AstroTurf, which is seven years beyond warranty. UH must go through a bid process first, which athletic director Herman Frazier said will likely take 30 days. Installation normally takes six to eight weeks.
It won't be soon enough for Rainbows junior second baseman Jon Hee. He has twice injured his shoulder diving on the hard AstroTurf. He prefers FieldTurf for other reasons, too.
"It's not as fast as our turf, balls don't go through the infield as fast. Bounces are true, too," he said. "You can dive on it and it gives."
UH coach Mike Trapasso said FieldTurf will be a "big-time" improvement.
"Basically we're looking at the best alternative to natural grass. We can't have grass because of maintenance issues," Trapasso said. "The surface that makes sense is FieldTurf."
Trapasso plans to keep dirt at home plate, unlike Peccole Park, which has none. The areas around the bases at Les Murakami Stadium, however, will be FieldTurf.
"The first couple years it will play slower than natural grass," Trapasso said. "It will add one or two steps to the range of infielders."
Most importantly, it will be less dangerous than the current worn-out turf, which developed fissures during the season and had to be taped down.
It's lived out its usefulness, but Hee said it has sentimental value.
"I would like to get a piece of that old carpet when they rip it up," he said. "There are a lot of baseball memories attached to it."