By: Tyler ClarkArkansas Media Relations
Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium has undergone numerous renovations over the years including skyboxes, the addition of one of the largest video screens in the country and an expansion to more than 70,000 seats, but its latest improvement should have both coaches and fans smiling when they step inside on Sept. 19 for the Arkansas-Georgia game.
In potentially the quickest facelift for the stadium, Kinco Construction ripped out the sod playing field and installed a state-of-the-art synthetic surface. Overseeing the turf installation for the University of Arkansas was Director of Sports Turf, Pat Berger, who expained the logistics of transitioning the field from grass to synthetic. “The problem with natural grass is it’s a living entity and therefore excessive play can ruin the field,” Berger said. “Coach Petrino believes in practicing where he will play. We had some issues last year with the grass surface getting overused so the decision was made to go to a synthetic surface that would allow for more play.”
The first step in installing the new turf was deciding which synthetic surface would be best for Arkansas. With numerous surfaces and even more companies eager to install them, the Razorback Athletic Department wanted to ensure that their investment would be something that not jsut looked sharp, but would last for years to come. “We interviewed six turf companies and went with the most competitive bid,” Berger said. “We ended up going with Sportexe HP 2.5 which is the newest technology consisting of a monofilament. Coach Petrino was also influential in picking what turf was chosen as he was looking for a stable turf."
The installation process began on April 20, a few days after the conclusion of the Red-White game last spring. Installers and the Athletic Department knew that there would be a tight timeline to get the old surface out and the new one in. Three months later, on July 20th, the test date for the new surface, crews completed the stunning tranformation. “Razorback Stadium, some 14 or 15 years ago, was Astroturf with 3 ½ to 5 inches of asphalt underneath,” Berger said. “Then, natural grass was put in. In order to install the new synthetic turf, we took eight inches of a sand base top off. We left four inches of sand as a barrier underneath which protected a four inch gravel blanket for drainage purposes. “Basically, we excavated the whole area under the field. If we ever have a failure with the drainage system, water will still drain off the field. Everything we use must drain at a minimum of ten inches per hour. Lastly, when we put the turf on we roll it out in 15 foot sections of fiber. The top of the turf is 2 ½ inches tall.”
Arkansas is not the only stadium installing a sythetic field. Maintenance costs of grass fields and the ability to use the surfaces continuously has pushed many stadiums to move away from natural grass. “High schools are starting to go to turf even though the NFL still still primarily plays on grass,” Berger said. “However, once you throw in environmental things, you can have big problems with grass. I expect players to like the turf more and more as high schools continue to switch to turf and the players have some experience with playing on it.”
Arkansas’ new surface is adorned with two Southeastern Conference logos, the words ‘Arkansas’ and ‘Razorbacks’ in each endzone as well as a 20-yard long Razorback across midfield facing the west side of the stadium. The new look of Razorback Stadium has the Arkansas coaching staff eager to make Fayetteville one of the toughest places for visiting teams in the country.