Editor's note: this story has been updated to correct the specifications of the base layer under the turf.
The Eastern Oregon University football team is just 50 days away from taking the field at Community Stadium for its season-opening game against the College of Idaho.
It appears the new turf field being installed will be ready in plenty of time for the showdown.
Shaw Sports Turf, the sub-contractor in charge of installing the new multi-use field at Community Stadium, is entering the homestretch of its work and hopes to have the final product completed by Wednesday. The company has spent the better part of the last two weeks placing the polypropylene turf.
“It’s going to be a beautiful facility,” said Shaw’s Mike Pennington.
The process of getting the turf in place started well before the Shaw team showed up. Mike Becker General Contractor, the general contractor on the job, started by digging up the old Community Stadium grass field and then putting down the base for the new playing surface.
The base includes eight inches of 1-1/2-inch drain rock and an additional two inches of 3/8-inch drain rock on top. Becker’s project manager, Jarod Teeter, said the product came from RD Mac, Inc., and is necessary to help improve field drainage when it rains.
The mixture far surpassed what was required for the field. According to Teeter, the drain system is required to be able to take up to 30 inches of water per hour.
“We exceeded that (requirement),” Teeter said.
Within the base layer, according to Teeter, is an eight-inch drain pipe running from goal post to goal post and several 12-inch flat drains running perpendicular to the main pipe. Surrounding the base layer is a border of 6-by-6 boards of pressure-treated wood. There is actually 22 inches of rock over the drain pipe.
Teeter said the boards are in place to “nail the carpet down (to). The wind can catch that. You have to think of that as a great big carpet.”
When the entire job is done, that is, in essence, what the field will be. Pennington said the turf-laying process for his team starts with placing numerous 15-foot-by-160-foot pieces of the turf and stitching them all together. The pieces have the yard-lines for football and the boundaries for soccer built into them.
“They’re right in the middle of the panel,” he said of the yard lines. “The white line is (built in) at 7-(feet)-6.”
The initial process of placing and sewing the turf took about three days, according to Pennington.
“Once the field is sewn, we trim and nail it (on the borders) because you guys get a lot of wind out here,” Pennington said.
Then comes, perhaps, the most tedious part of the job. The logo, sidelines numbers and lettering in the end zone — rather than being painted on as they are with a grass field — are all inlaid into the turf.
“The numbers, the center logo and the end zone letters are all (put in) separately. We lay them out, cut around them and drop them in,” Pennington said.
It’s an exact science, too, with all the added intricacies of a football field, including the hash marks and the yard-line numbers.
“Everything is precisely measured. Every hashmark from center to center is exactly three feet. The numbers are 21 feet from the sideline,” Pennington said. “We have to lay all that out.”
The new pieces, when they are placed, are glued in with an epoxy, according to Pennington. The logo, lettering, hash marks and numbers won’t need to be replaced for the entire life of the field.
“It’ll create the illusion that it’s one big piece,” Pennington said.
The Community Stadium turf does have a feature Pennington has not yet dealt with in 17 years on the job, a stretch that has seen him, in his own words, place “hundreds” of fields.
“That logo is the biggest logo I’ve ever seen,” he said.
The midfield logo of the interlocking E, O and U spans nearly 40 yards. Each piece has to be cut around the yard lines, as well.
Pennington said while laying the initial pieces of the turf took about three days, the logo itself will take two. It was a process the team started Thursday and hopes to
“It’s a difficult logo,” he said.
Once the logo is finished, Pennington said the numbers and hash marks will be placed, also about a two-day project, which he hopes the group will finish by Sunday.
The final step for Shaw is filling in the turf with the actual playing surface.
“This is a 2-1/2 inch product,” Pennington said of the polypropylene turf. “We’ll put in two inches of rubber and sand in it.”
He called the sand and rubber mix the ballast that “holds the field down and is the playing surface. This (the polypropylene turf) is really just the dressing. The fibers are what looks good.”
Once the rubber and sand are in place — which Pennington hopes to have done by Wednesday — the team from Becker will backfill around the new playing surface and place sod in what remains of the original digout.
“We’ll put topsoil back in and then sod it. Anything that is exposed soil (will be covered with) sod,” Teeter said.
He noted that the new track being installed at EOU is also on pace for its scheduled completion by the end of August. He said the paving process for the track begins early next week, and the rubberized surface will be placed 30 days after the paving is done.
“We’re on schedule. Everything should be ready to go,” Teeter said.