Campus Construction Update, Sept. 3, 2010: Garcelon Field

Garcelon Field and player

“The surface is phenomenal,” Bobcat center and co-captain Brendan Murphy ’11 said on Sept. 2, during the football team’s third practice on the renovated Garcelon Field.

Though the grandstand has yet to be erected and there’s still work to do surrounding the gridiron, the playing field was declared ready for action late last week and the first-ever practice took place Aug. 31.

Composed of artificial grass tendrils and many layers of sand and rubber particles, the emerald green FieldTurf is “fast, but at the same time you’re not worrying about AstroTurf banging up your knees and your hips,” Murphy said.

“Aesthetically, it’s nice because we’re right in the middle of campus,” he added. The team previously practiced on the softball field, near Facility Services on Lafayette Street. “People walking by can see you. It definitely increases our visibility as a program.”

Garcelon Field scoreboard

The FieldTurf playing surface was infilled, as the experts say, during the week of Aug. 22. The infilling involved spreading 254 tons of mixed sand and specially treated rubber particles over the artificial grass laid earlier in the month — more sand in the bottom layers, more rubber near the top. Then the infill was settled into place by workers driving big motorized brooms, the way you sweep sand into the crevices of a new brick patio.

Aug. 24 was an especially exciting day, as some workers for R.A.D. Sports set up the new scoreboard, near the Residential Village, while others drove their brooms around sending up big tails of sand and black rubber bits.

The finished turf, said project manager Mike Gustin, “feels really soft when you walk on it. They say that as we use it more, it will pack in and be a little bit harder but it will always feel kind of spongy — which you want.”

In fact, the final step in creating the playing surface was to test its softness. That was done late in the week of Aug. 22 by dropping a 3-pound metal ball and measuring its bounce. A technician for contractor R.A.D. Sports of Rockland, Mass., “tests each spot three times and they take an average,” explained project manager Mike Gustin.

Garcelon Field lights

Speaking of visibility, the Musco field lights were erected and tested on Aug. 30, Gustin reported. There are four sets, each with 18 lamps. Gustin noted that a certain amount of redundancy is built into the lights: “If a bulb goes out, there’s still enough foot-candles to light the field, so we can continue playing a game. Musco waits until a certain number of lights go out before they come and change the bulbs.

“The ones on the west side of the field are hooked up permanently,” he explained. “But until the grandstand goes up, we can’t hook up the two on the east side.” So a big generator was used to test those lights.

The grandstand and accompanying press box are the last major pieces of the Garcelon project, with a dedication taking place over the Parents & Family Weekend during the Oct. 9 inaugural game, against Williams.

Setting up the stands was delayed, Gustin explained, by soil that proved to be wetter and softer than testing had first indicated. This necessitated a new localized drainage system and larger concrete footers than originally planned.

At any rate, R.A.D. crews started digging holes for the footers on Sept. 1, with concrete flowing soon thereafter. Components for the stands themselves — “like a big Erector set,” said Gustin — are scheduled to show up on Sept. 10.

In a previous column, Gustin told us that the flagpoles at the renovated field are situated so that the crowd won’t need to contort themselves to see the U.S. flag during the national anthem. In what other ways, we wondered, will the renovation make life easier for the folks in the stands?

The scoreboard, too, will be easier to see, because its new location by the Residential Village presents a less acute angle to the stands. Better still, visibility-wise, “the grandstands are going to be right up to the edge of the field,” Gustin said. “There’s a walkway across the front of the grandstand, about four to five feet higher than the field, whereas before there was the eight-lane track between the field and the grandstand.”

Garcelon Field work

People who use wheelchairs will also enjoy a better view, with dedicated space, accessed by a ramp, on the lower section of the grandstand. “Those will be pretty good seats because they’ll be right close to the action,” Gustin said. He added that a lift will provide access to the press box for the mobility-impaired.

Spectators in the center of the grandstand will enjoy actual molded plastic seats, complete with arms and backs, instead of bare metal to sit on. There’s also a small gain in capacity, from about 1,420 seats to 1,500, figuring 18 inches per derriere.

But Gustin pointed out that one of the best amenities of all is “just the fact that everything’s new and fresh and looks awesome.”
— Additional reporting by Sports Information Director Andy Walter

Follow the progress of the Hedge and Roger Williams renovations.

Read a followup about the student residence at 10 Frye St.

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