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Workers install the irrigation sytem for FAU's new on-campus stadium on Monday. ( photo)


On the surface

Workers began laying the irrigation system at Florida Atlantic’s on-campus football stadium in preparation for installing the Celebration Bermuda sod in a few weeks.

Originally published on 6/13/2011

by Chuck King

In a bit of a switch from the old saying, the grass will be greener for Florida Atlantic not on the other side, but when it gets to the inside.

The process of bringing the new grass field into Florida Atlantic's on-campus football stadium began in earnest Monday when the workers from Sports Turf One begin laying the irrigation system.

“That's a significant milestone,” said Chris Long, operations director at Balfour Beatty, which, along with Cummings Construction , is serving as the stadium's general contractor.

Once the irrigation system is in place, Sports Turf One will lay the drainage system. A series of 6-inch flat pipes will be arranged in a herring-bone pattern underneath the field, ushering water from the playing surface to a rectangular network of 12-inch pipes around the perimeter of the field. Those larger pipes then usher the water to the main drainage transport pipe.

When the drainage system is in place, Sports Turf One will cover the pipes with four inches of course sand, then put six inches of USGA approved soil on top of that.

Only then will Sports Turf One bring in the grass.

“Fields are built from the bottom of the grass down,” said Sports Turf One Vice President Bill Gillan. “Everything below the grass is really the important part in building a quality field.”

As for the actual playing surface, that sod is ready and waiting for the base to be completed. In May, a contingent that included members of FAU's athletic department, Balfour Beatty/Cummings Construction and Sports Turf One, traveled to Quality Turf in Central Florida to select the swatch of Celebration Bermuda grass that will become FAU's surface.

In the coming weeks, the three-acre patch will be rolled into 42-inch wide by 75-feet long spirals and trucked south to Boca Raton. Gillan expects to begin laying the sod around July 1.

“It was like picking a Christmas tree,” Long said. “They identified the grass for the field. As soon as we say we are ready, they will cut the grass, and it comes in big rolls like carpet, and then they will roll the grass out.”

Why that particular patch of grass?

“You are trying to get the oldest, most mature turf there which equates to the healthiest root system,” Gillan said.

The Celebration Bermuda is the same grass that currently makes up the football field for Tampa's Raymond James Stadium and Jacksonville's EverBank Field, as well as the recently replaced baseball field at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. It is considered a heartier grass than the form of Bermuda that currently carpets Sun Life Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins play.

The grass needs 60 days to take root. If the plan proceeds according to the current schedule, it will have more than 90 before the Oct. 15 home opener against Western Kentucky.

FAU did consider installing a synthetic turf field, but ultimately decided natural grass would be more beneficial.

“It's going to be better for football, it's going to be a nice soccer surface and it's going to be cooler,” FAU athletic director Craig Angelos said.








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Breakdown Box

What they're working on

Aside from beginning work on the field, Balfour Beatty will spend the week preparing to get approval to throw the main power switch at the site. It is hoped the power to at least some of the stadium's overhead lights, along with the power inside the main tower and concourses could begin flowing as early as next week.


Turf tidbits: A look at FAU's new playing surface

  • The sprinkler system can send as much as 120 gallons a minute onto the field. Depending on the weather, the field will be watered three times a day during the initial growing period for about 15 minutes per watering.
  • Once the field has matured in its new location, it will require 1-to-2 inches of water per week.
  • FAU will have the only natural grass field in the Sun Belt Conference.
  • The herring-bone shaped drainage system underneath the field will be comprised of about 6,700 feet of pipe. The drainage system alone will be able to move 100,000 gallons of water (8-9 inches) per hour.
  • The field will have a slight crown, leaving the center of the field about seven and a half inches higher than the sidelines.
  • The Celebration Bermuda plays best at a length of ½ to ¾ of an inch. To keep it that length, it will need to be mowed three to four times per week.

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