New turf

Matt Goul

Football hopes FieldTurf improves stadium facility, future scheduling

Soon the Astroturf that carpets Dix Stadium will be replaced by FieldTurf. The field hockey team will no longer play in Dix Stadium. Instead, a separate field hockey facility is being built.

Credit: Andrew popik

Kent State’s football and field hockey teams will no longer be stadium-mates starting next season.

Both teams will get new playing fields, no longer sharing the same Astroturf field at Dix Stadium. For the football team, Dix Stadium will be upgraded with a new FieldTurf surface. For the field hockey team, a new stadium is on the way.

Both are scheduled to be ready for play this fall, said Laing Kennedy, the university’s director of athletics.

The new home for field hockey will be paid with private gifts and located behind Dix Stadium. Kennedy said it will cost an estimated $1.1 million.

The FieldTurf for football, which is artificial but more like grass, will be less expensive than normal because the asphalt and components to install the surface are already in place. Kennedy said the new turf should cost between $500,000 and $600,000.

The athletic department has been working with university architects for construction of the new home for field hockey. A new playing venue for the team needed to be decided before FieldTurf could be installed for football. Kennedy said the process has been in discussion for about two years.

“The Astroturf is due to be almost replaced anyway,” Kennedy said. “So we’re just rolling in the FieldTurf.”

Kennedy said he is hopeful the improved playing surface can be used as a recruiting tool. He said the turf will help in attracting better teams, too.

The Navy, Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Boston College are some of the schools scheduled to visit Kent State in the next few seasons. Boston College will come in 2008. Temple University is coming in 2006. The Owls, along with Western Kentucky, are possible suitors for the Mid-American Conference should it expand. Kennedy said the possibility for Temple joining is stronger, but he added it’s still too early to tell.

He said Kent State and Temple are engaging in talks to compete in multiple sports, regardless if Temple joins the MAC. A possible agreement could be similar to Buffalo’s package with Connecticut, playing the Huskies in football and men’s and women’s basketball.

Two-for-one agreements with Big Ten schools in football are also possible, Kennedy said. Such an agreement would bring a Big Ten school to Dix Stadium once and send Kent State to the same school twice. Kent State played at Iowa last year and will play at Michigan State to open the season this year.

“You’re not going to bring those programs in here on an Astroturf field,” Kennedy said.

Seven MAC schools — Akron, Central Michigan, Miami, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan — used a version of turf other than traditional grass or Astroturf for football last year. Buffalo and Eastern Michigan are slated to install new turf for the fall, too. The Flashes played on FieldTurf three times last season, twice in the MAC and at Rutgers.

Kennedy said he thinks the football program’s risk of losing its Division I-A eligibility is subsiding with the upgrades and recent changes the NCAA made to its I-A requirements. The NCAA announced last week it will allow programs to gain or maintain I-A status if they average at least 15,000 in paid or actual attendance once every two years.

Kent State averaged about 12,877 in five home games last season. Attendance decreased with each game after 25,186 — the second-largest crowd in Dix Stadium history — attended a 24-19 loss to Akron. Only 5,974 attended the final home game, a 69-17 win over Eastern Michigan.

Kent State field hockey coach Kerry DeVries said colleges are feeling pressure to keep facilities up to date, whether it’s field hockey or football. She said having a facility separate from football will help her program in recruiting, too.

The new facility is scheduled to be completed by September. Kennedy said there will not be any home games until late September to accommodate the construction. He wants to implement a press box and grandstand in following year. Until then, Kennedy said having the field ready is the main concern.

“It’s going to go through different phases,” DeVries said. “We’re looking at simply a field with a water system because the field needs to be wet.”

The new field will include six water cannons, one each and two for midfield. In years past, the field was kept damp with water hoses. DeVries said the new facility has to be taken step-by-step. Because of that, lights will not be installed this fall.

Dix Stadium’s new turf is scheduled to be ready by Aug. 1. The type of FieldTurf used for football will be decided through bidding by prospective providers. Modification to the stands in Dix Stadium were made for last season. The new stands, called the Gold Zone, were built on the east end of the stadium.

Contact assistant sports editor Matt Goul at [email protected].