Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Miami taking on artificial turf


School hopes field is first step in bigger Yager Stadium renovation

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Yager Stadium at Miami University is getting artificial turf.
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For more than 100 years, the Miami University football team has played its home games on natural grass, first at Miami Field, and for the last 20 years at Yager Stadium.

But when it takes the field this fall on Sept. 27 to host neighborhood rival Cincinnati, the RedHawks will walk onto a new, state-of-the-art artificial surface.

Installation of the new surface is the first phase of what officials hope will be a renovation of the 30,012-seat facility, which could include lights to enable the RedHawks to play night football games at home on a regular basis.

"It was a nice stadium in 1983," said Miami football coach Terry Hoeppner, "and it hasn't changed. We've got to do some other things."

The FieldTurf that Miami selected is the same surface UC installed at Nippert Stadium in 2000, made from graded silica sand and ground rubber designed to give the surface the feel and look of natural grass.

"Right now, it's the state-of-the-art surface," said Miami athletic director Brad Bates. "It's a more porous, more consistent surface and it's really becoming an attractive recruiting tool as well.

"We want to use Yager Stadium for high school events as much as possible and get to where it's used more frequently, but we put this in for our program."

The turf costs $665,000 and will be paid for with private funds, thanks to a donation from Mark, Elizabeth, Pete and Amy Mather. Mark, class of 1983, and Pete, class of 1988, are brothers who played football at Miami.

The field's undersurface is being installed now, Bates said. The new surface should be in place by the middle of August, in plenty of time for the home opener against UC.

Miami will play three games this year on ESPN2 - the Aug. 30 season opener at Iowa, and home games on Tuesday, Nov. 4 against Bowling Green and Wednesday, Nov. 12 against Marshall.

Temporary lights will be installed for the Bowling Green and Marshall games.

FieldTurf either has been or will be installed at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Louisville's Papa John Stadium, Michigan Stadium, Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium and Giants Stadium.

Bates said FieldTurf is the first step toward making Yager Stadium more accommodating for fans. He wanted to make a noticeable improvement to the stadium in a short period of time so Miami fans will see visible evidence this fall that the athletic program - and the football program in particular - is moving forward.

"We want to serve our students, bring the stadium more up to date and increase fans' enjoyment at the game," Bates said. "This is all part of it."

Hoeppner said he hopes that with the new turf, Miami will be able to host more high school games.

"I'd like to have five or six high school games a year," Hoeppner said, "and possibly a playoff game down the road."

He said the school would be interested in hosting the high school state championship games that have been played at either Canton's Fawcett Stadium or Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in northeastern Ohio since 1991.

"That was one of my goals," Hoeppner said. "It has to come south sometime. Why not us?"

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E-mail: bkoch@enquirer.com




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