For anyone who witnessed or even saw pictures the Spring Football game, it was quite noticeable that the field was in poor shape as the grass was still recovering from the harsh winter. Given the time it takes to prepare the natural grass, and the upcoming renovations to the south end zone, could Purdue switch to artificial turf?
Morgan Burke is thinking about it, according to the Journal & Courier.
"I've asked them to update the study when the Bermuda went in - which is to look at the cost and benefits of Bermuda vs. Field Turf. There's arguments on both sides. I'm not saying we'll do it or won't do it but I think we would be remiss if we didn't look at it," Burke said.
With more schools ditching natural grass, most notably Notre Dame, should Purdue follow suit? The article notes that many other stadiums that use natural grass, focusing on Bermuda Grass, have had issues preparing their fields for the upcoming season. There certainly can be a huge cost associated with natural grass, especially for stadiums in northern climate.
Also noted, one of the main things recruits want to see are the stadiums and arenas they are playing in, and Hazell doesn't seem to pleased with having to show recruits dormant grass in Ross-Ade.
Plus, coach Darrell Hazell and his coaching staff show recruits the field and right now the turf isn't an appealing selling point.
Hazell can't afford any deficiencies as he attempts to pull the program out of the Big Ten basement and attract the best possible recruits.
The advantage Purdue has is that the College of Agriculture does help with the field preparation, but Burke seems willing to scrap that if natural grass becomes too expensive to maintain. However, given the other plans with the Ross-Ade renovation, the turf may have to be put on the back burner as other items for the renovation have priority.
Personally, I would be fine with either natural grass or artificial turf. If I had to pick, I would go with the natural grass as now-a-days, it adds a unique touch to the stadium given that most B1G schools use artificial turf. In addition, I am sure the smart folks at the Ag school can figure something out to aid the grass.
As a Packers fan, I will immediately point out that Lambeau Field should be a guide on how to treat natural grass in the northern states if Purdue wants to keep natural grass. No matter what, it's not going to look green come December and January, but it stays together and is perfectly green once the snow melts off in July. Lambeau uses a sand base, heating underneath the field, synthetic fibers woven throughout the field and growing lights for the late fall and winter months. I'm no where close to being a turf scientist, but it seems to work fine most of the time.
*Update* T-Mill found this article; Broncos and Eagles also use similar fields as Green Bay, called Desso GrassMaster, which is 3% artificial turf thanks to the fibers woven within the grass. It's also called Reinforced Natural Grass. Very popular among soccer clubs in England and some 2010 World Cup stadiums. */Update*
Obviously, Purdue, or any other northern college stadium with natural grass, doesn't need all of that since home games wrap up Thanksgiving weekend. If anything, growing lights and the synthetic fibers to keep the field intact could suffice.
Bermuda Grass does hold together better than other types of grass, but as noted in the J&C article, it is difficult to maintain when the temperature starts to drop. If Purdue wants to keep natural grass, does it stay with Bermuda? Look into other types of natural grass? Adopt something similar to Lambeau? Or should they just fork up the cost up front, switch to artificial turf, and no longer worry about major maintenance after the winter season?
The irony would be if Purdue gets growing lights for the grass before it gets permanent lights for the stadium.