Campus Construction Update, week of June 28: Garcelon Field

How “green,” speaking environmentally and not chromatically, will the renovated Garcelon Field be?

The answer’s mixed, says project manager Mike Gustin. Unlike the old grass field, the new FieldTurf playing surface will neither support wildlife nor inhale carbon dioxide. It’s also true that the artificial turf is made in part from petroleum products.

But in other ways an artificial field has significant environmental advantages over grass. “We won’t have to fertilize it or spray it with herbicides or any of those nasty products,” Gustin says. Even with organic field products, “there’s still a cost to the environment to produce those and package them and truck them here.”

He adds, “We don’t have to mow and we don’t have to water.” He has heard estimates that the old field could use up to 900,000 gallons annually. “We had to basically water it all summer long to keep it green.”

Gustin allows that the new field will be equipped with sprinklers for cooling, as the artificial turf can make the gridiron more like a griddle in hot weather. But he notes that Colby has never had to water-cool its similar field during its three years of existence.

Finally, he points out that gravel and topsoil removed from the old playing surface will be reused, and new gravel and crushed stone will be locally sourced. And field lines — in different colors for the different sports to be played on the field — will be integrated right into the artificial grass. So, with the exception of temporary markings for the occasional soccer game, there won’t be a need to repaint lines.

But let’s get the field built first. The next major step, says Gustin, will be the creation of a concrete anchor curb around the playing field. That curb will separate the field from the walkways around it, and will provide a base for a black chain-link fence.

“Now they’re preparing the subgrade and they’re getting ready for the anchor curb to go in” during the week of July 5, he says.

Checked off the chore list is the rerouting of an old 15-inch pipe that drains Leahy Field and once ran diagonally under the football field into Lake Andrews. That pipe now skirts the south end of Garcelon near the New Commons Building. And the old drain pipes from Garcelon itself are history.

The new drainage system won’t be installed for a while. And the materials for that system are stockpiled around the margins of the field if you wish to drop everything and go have a look-see.

At the north end, near the Residential Village, are white-wrapped rolls of something called Multi-Flow. This is perforated plastic pipe whose cross-section is nearly flat. It will lie in a bed of crushed rock beneath the FieldTurf collecting moisture and sending it to more pipey-looking pipes that, right now, are stacked at the Commons end of the field.

Those materials will be put in place after the workers with the big machines finish preparing the subgrade. First, they have to finish spreading around the mounds of gravel that are heaped in the field; then cover that with a textile layer (rolls of which you can also see, stacked near the Village and Central Avenue); and only then can the crushed stone and drainage will go in.

And despite the seeming simplicity of these steps, it won’t happen overnight, simply because it’s the size of, well, a football field.

“You look out there now and it doesn’t really look like they’ve gained much,” says Gustin. “It’s such a big area and these things take time.”

Read about the renovation of Hedge and Roger Williams halls.

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