Sporting Community To Benefit From SUU’s New Turf
Southern Utah University’s Eccles Coliseum Stadium has a new look. Freshly laid turf awaits its first game when SUU opens their home football season on their new all-weather synthetic turf Saturday, September 15 as they take the field against New Mexico Highlands.
The new field is bringing more than just its good looks to SUU. It promises to bring new benefits to both SUU and Cedar City’s sporting community, including revenue producing events and exposure for Cedar City and SUU.
Head football coach Ed Lamb, who developed the research for the field, noted that, “We have known for some time that SUU and Cedar City were unable to host high school playoff games and other events due to the weather making a grass field unplayable. For example, Cedar High School forfeited the right to host a home playoff game in 2011 because the fields in Cedar were unplayable due to snow leading to an economic loss to Cedar City.”
Byron Linford, Cedar City Events Planner notes that, “The city hosted many events, playoff games and the like in the past, but have lost out when others put in synthetic turf. But now we can play multiple games in a day and back to back days without missing a beat. It’s a really good thing for the community.”
According to estimates provided by USA Football, Utah High School Activities Association, and Utah Summer Games, the cost to Cedar City per year of not having synthetic turf is a conservative two million dollars.
Of course SUU considered the day to day benefits of installing the synthetic playing surface. SUU Athletic Director Ken Beazer said, “We began to look at installing synthetic turf, looking to see if the cost could be justified as a prudent investment, with us knowing that most colleges and many high schools are enjoying the benefits of turf. Our analysis indicated that the benefits greatly outweighed the cost.” When asked what the number one benefit would be to SUU athletics, Beazer said, “The turf will give us a year round training surface for all sports and greatly benefit women’s soccer. Plus, the new turf is much safer than grass.”
Safety benefits were also discovered. FieldTurf has been independently verified to reduce ACL and Concussion occurrences. This study titled “Incidence, Causes, and Severity of High School Football Injuries on FieldTurf Versus Natural Grass,” took place over five years by Michael C. Meyers, PhD, FACSM and Bill S. Barnhill, MD from the Human Performance Research Center, West Texas A & M University. The study indicated that 16 concussion injuries occurred on natural grass with 10 on FieldTurf and 9 ACL injuries on grass and 6 on FieldTurf. Coach Lamb noted, “You can’t put a price on healthy football players but the benefit is enormous.”
While initial installation costs are estimated at 1 million dollars, the new field will save SUU money on maintenance costs. FieldTurf recommends annual maintenance at a cost of $5,000 per year, far less than natural grass requires. Coach Lamb’s report indicates a savings of $45,000 per year. SUU will also expect an improved game-day environment that should result in greater attendance and increased sponsorships. Increased on-field performance directly results in greater game guarantee opportunities. (SUU received $500,000 in guaranteed money to play the University of California at Berkley on September 8.)
The benefits of the new field are more than just financial. Increased practice and winter training opportunities should result in greater performances plus Synthetic turf is an asset in recruiting. No team on the 2012 SUU schedule has natural grass. Plus, artificial turf increases the likelihood of gaining an NCAA playoff home game. Southern Utah Football and Soccer camps will also have increased participation.
All SUU students will benefit with intramural night-games which should result in increased student support for football and athletics in general. Student body/community movie nights could be held on the field using the video scoreboard as a movie screen.
Last but not least, universities are in the business of public perception. Fifteen Utah high schools have synthetic turf. SUU is the only college football team in the state that did not have an all-weather playing/practice surface. In the Big Sky Conference, SUU and Northern Colorado were the only cold-weather schools that do not have an all-weather training surface (Cal Poly has the only other natural grass field). Northern Colorado has averaged just one win per year in the Big Sky over last 5 years. No team on the 2012 SUU schedule has a natural grass field.
Ken Beazer sums up the impact of the new stadium’s field, “It is safe to say we have no idea how many different ways Eccles Stadium will be used over the years that will benefit the community and Southern Utah University.”