VCU updates its turf

You may have noticed the Cary Street Field has been blocked off since November. No, it’s not because of budget cuts – the field is being replaced.

Depressions in the field made it unsafe for students, said Susan Ivie Boling, director of Recreational Sports. The uneven artificial turf also affected ball performance.

“Safety in my mind was the main priority,” she said.

The depressions, Boling said, were caused by problems underneath the field. Some foundations from row houses that used to occupy the field might have remained and caused drainage problems. The 100-year-old sewer system, she said, also was a factor.

“I’m not really surprised we had some problems,” she said.

Because the soil was tested in 36 places, contractors will be able to correct any subsurface problems before the turf is replaced, Boling said. To avoid possible drainage problems, contractors will install an intricate drainage system below the surface. Drains also will be visible along the edges of the field.

In addition to the drainage systems, students are asked to refrain from wearing metal cleats or spikes on the surface in order to maximize the life of the new field.

Once the subsurface work is done, two layers will be placed on the field before the new turf is installed. The layers, made of crushed rock and fabric, keep everything stable, Boling said.

The new turf, which has a rubber infill, is fairly short to appease both recreational sports and the field hockey team. It also is easier on athletes’ knees and allows for better ball performance, she said. The turf that will be used on the Cary Street Field, Boling said, is the same turf used by the Atlanta Falcons.

The field will have inlaid lines for field hockey and intercollegiate soccer. Two corners of the field will also have inlaid markings for softball.

The turf, which wears out naturally under the sunlight, was last replaced in 1994. The project’s construction costs are estimated at $1,640,906 and will be paid from student fees that Recreational Sports has put aside throughout the years, Boling said. No extra money will be used to fund the project.

“That’s really a sound way for the university to plan,” Boling said.

Finding another location for athletes to use was not an option, as the university would have to purchase off-campus property.

“We really didn’t want students to have to travel,” she said.

Cary Street Field is primarily used by physical education classes, the soccer club, the field hockey team and intramural sports. Since the field has been out of commission this semester, the field hockey team has practiced in small groups on a turfed area inside the Franklin Street Gym, said Shelly Behrens, head coach for the team.

“We’re pretty adaptable for the most part,” she said.

Although the team won’t know the field’s potential until mid-August, Behrens said the team is looking forward to playing outside again.

The track surrounding Cary Street Field is also being repaired. The entire project, Boling said, is expected to be complete by August 1.

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