Minium: ODU Football Team Will Have Practice Turf Every Bit as Nice as the New Turf at S.B. Ballard Stadium

May 20, 2019
By ODU Athletics
ODU Athletics

 By Harry Minium

The artificial turf gleams in the sunshine as workers spread it across a football field, and as plastic grass goes, this is high-end stuff.

Every five yards the turf moves from dark green to light green and back. An ODU logo, and the word “Monarchs,” can be seen in the two end zones.

It looks like an awesome field in which to play a football game.

But if you were thinking this is a description of the new artificial turf at S.B. Ballard Stadium, you’re a little early. That won’t be installed until late July.

The new turf is actually being installed at the L.R. Hill Sports Complex where Old Dominion’s football players will begin individual summer workouts in June and summer camp in August.

Never will have ODU players practiced on grass so resplendent.

The old practice turf was installed prior to the 2008 football season, in which a few dozen players practiced as they redshirted before ODU played its first football season in 2009. At 11 years old, it outlasted the original 8-year warranty.

“It really took a beating, but in the end held up pretty well,” said Greg Smith, ODU’s associate athletic director for facilities. “But it was definitely time to replace it.”

Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium is undergoing a $67.5 million renovation that will give fans 15,972 comfortable new sideline seats. And the same high quality turf going into the stadium is also going onto the practice field.

ODU spent a little more money to ensure the name “Old Dominion” and "Monarchs are on the practice field. Monarchs can be seen twice in fact – it’s also in the end zone of the adjacent half practice field.

“When you have visitors to our practices, you constantly want them to see that reminder,” said coach Bobby Wilder.

“It’s a way to keep emphasizing the point that we are Old Dominion. Every time people are on campus for a tour or a visit, or when people drive by our practice field, it’s good advertising.”

Field Turf submitted the winning bid to install turf at L.R. Hill and the stadium, Smith said. The turf will cost about $1.2 million.

“It was a good deal for the University, because Field Turf really wanted their product to be at our new stadium,” Smith said.

Field Turf is installing 145,000 square feet of turf on the practice fields and will install 89,000 square feet at the stadium. The practice field is located hear the Powhatan Field high school football stadium and Lamberts Point golf course.

Installation of the carpet was completed at the L.R. Hill complex earlier this week. Now comes the task of spreading 1.2 million pounds of sand and crumb rubber that helps shield players from being injured.

Smith said the sand and rubber are the main components used to protect the athlete from impact injuries, including concussions.

“The grass is the shiny body on a new car but the infill is the motor under the hood that makes it go,” he said.

The turf at the stadium and L.R. Hill are identical and will take some getting used to, Wilder said.

“Our players will notice a difference in how it feels when they’re running,” Wilder said. “Our surface was like anything that was a decade old. It was worn down and inconsistent.”

The new surface will be faster, and because new lighting is being installed at the stadium, Wilder said ODU will scrimmage at least twice at S.B. Ballard Stadium prior to the Aug. 31 opener against Norfolk State.

“They’re going to feel a big difference when running on a new surface,” Wilder said. “It’s important they feel that now so that when they walk into the stadium, it will feel the same.

“Our light towers at the stadium are higher and there’s a band of lights on the home side. When our players are running down field looking over their shoulders, the ball will come out of the lights.

“We want to create a home-field advantage. Our wide receivers, defensive backs and punt and kick returners have to get used to it for us to develop that home field advantage.”

The practice fields will get plenty of use this summer for ODU’s football camps. But Wilder said the field’s main purpose is for his players.

“This field will help provide our players with a real sense of pride,” he said. “And that’s the most important thing.”

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