The field at Notre Dame Stadium during half time in Notre Dame's spring NCAA collegefootball game Saturday April 12, 2014 in South Bend, Ind. The Blue Gold game marks the end of spring football practice. Artificial turf will be installed at the stadium in time for the start of the upcoming football season, athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Artificial turf will be installed at Notre Dame Stadium in time for the start of the upcoming football season.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the university wanted to stay with natural grass, but said a combination of factors including the university holding commencement at the stadium in recent years has made it harder to maintain good field conditions.
“We had a strong predisposition to stay with a natural grass field,” Swarbrick said. “However, the reality is that in two of the last three seasons since we moved Commencement to the Stadium we have been unable to produce an acceptable playing surface. That, combined with the likely impacts of future construction at the Stadium, led me to conclude that we would continue to struggle to maintain a grass field that meets the expectations of our student-athletes and fans as it relates to appearance, performance and safety.”
Last year the university installed new sod at the stadium three times, including once in the middle of the season. Coach Brian Kelly had said previously he wanted FieldTurf installed.
“I think everybody is in agreement, if we could get the best surface there in grass, we’d love to have that," Kelly said Saturday following the Blue Gold game. "We just haven’t been able to get to that. This is my fifth year here at Notre Dame and we haven’t been able to get to that, and this is the best option available to us.”
The university announced during its spring Blue-Gold game Saturday that installation of FieldTurf will begin after the commencement ceremony on May 18 and should be completed by Aug. 15.
The Irish open the season Aug. 30 at home against Rice.
Of NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision programs in the Midwest and Northeast portions of the United States (states of Nebraska and Kansas and east; states of Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia and north), 37 of those 47 stadiums (.787) feature some form of artificial turf. That number includes all 13 Mid-American Conference facilities and 10 of 14 Big Ten Conference fields (including Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin).
FieldTurf fields already are in use at Notre Dame at the LaBar Practice Complex (two practice fields used by the Notre Dame football squad), the Loftus Sports Center (a new football field was installed following the 2013 season in the Irish indoor football facility that’s also used by other Notre Dame squads), Arlotta Stadium (for men’s and women’s lacrosse) and Stinson Rugby Field (dedicated last fall).
In addition, FieldTurf is currently being installed at Frank Eck Stadium, Notre Dame’s home baseball facility.
Notre Dame Stadium opened in 1930 and it has had natural grass ever since.
Fans fill a corner of Notre Dame Stadium during the second half Notre Dame's spring NCAA college football game Saturday April 12, 2014 in South Bend, Ind. The Blue Gold game marks the end of spring football practice. Artificial turf will be installed at the stadium in time for the start of the upcoming football season, athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)