Norse become only team in NCAA Division III to have signature blue turf

Carlson Stadium on the Luther College campus will get a major upgrade this summer with the installation of a top-of-the-line synthetic turf and pad system by AstroTurf. See teaser video.

Legacy Field, as it will be named within Carlson Stadium, will have the distinction of being the only blue turf field among NCAA Division III colleges and universities in the United States. Boise State University, a Division I athletic program, has a registered trademark on their iconic blue artificial turf field in Albertsons Stadium. Luther College has received permission from officials at Boise State to install blue turf on Legacy Field.

Luther’s Carlson Stadium has the only remaining natural grass football field in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Given the deteriorating condition of the existing grass field, this turf project is a top institutional priority within Luther’s athletic facilities complex. Synthetic turf provides a consistent surface across the whole field and throughout the year in any weather conditions. It will also save water usage, eliminate the need for fertilizer or pesticides, and reduce maintenance costs.

The Luther College Board of Regents approved this $1.7 million project at their May 13 meeting. The turf project is being funded by a small group of generous donors who have made leadership-level gifts.

A lead gift of $800,000 from Dennis and Suzanne Birkestrand of Las Vegas, Nevada, accelerated the project. Dennis Birkestrand is a 1964 Luther graduate who played football for the Norse.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Birkestrands and other leadership donors, Luther is moving forward with the turf project in summer 2017,” said Luther College President Paula Carlson. “The new field will provide a first-class athletic experience for our students and build momentum for the larger vision within Luther’s athletics facility master plan.”

The new turf won’t just bring Carlson Stadium to par with other fields in the Iowa Conference; it will surpass them in quality and safety, according to Luther Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Renae Hartl.

“The safety of student-athletes is a top priority, and AstroTurf is an industry leader when it comes to safety, performance and durability for their turf and pad systems,” according to Hartl. The college plans to install a first-class system that features an AstroTurf 3D synthetic turf with Nike Grind infill and a Brock pad, creating the best possible field of play. This combination meets Luther’s highest standards for safety and sustainability.

Brock engineers each of their shock-absorbing pad solutions specifically to reduce the impact force, protecting players and lessening injuries. Adding a pad to the full turf system delivers shock reduction that is consistent and predictable, making it one of the safest fields on the market. It is also a fully recyclable product. Luther’s field will be the only one in the state of Iowa to have a Brock pad as part of its turf design.

Aligning with Luther’s campus sustainability goals, all aspects of the new field system including the turf, pad and infill components are fully reusable at the end of their life cycle. The AstroTurf field will include an encapsulated infill of Nike Grind, a premium recycled material created from original Nike materials and products.

The proposed design for Luther’s 90,100-square-foot football field features blue turf for the main field of play with a prominent Norse logo at center field. The end zones will be white turf with bold blue “LUTHER” and “NORSE” lettering. Green turf will surround the main field.

“We are very excited to enhance our student-athletes’ experience at Luther College. AstroTurf’s product and pad systems are among the best available for keeping our players safe. Having Luther blue will be unique among Midwest colleges and provide a visible way to promote our football program, athletic department and Luther College,” said Aaron Hafner, Luther head football coach. “The overall sense we get from our alumni athletes is excitement and pride in the promotion of our school colors, while creating a safe environment for our student- athletes. Our current players couldn’t be more excited.”

Norse football players are eager for the improved stadium experience. “This update to Carlson Stadium is a vital opportunity for Luther to not just ‘catch up’ to every other conference school with turf. This is a real chance to differentiate ourselves with a blue surface rather than green. My hopes are that blue turf will be a great marketing piece and will help Luther College attract more prospective students,” said Mitch Van Epps, a junior defensive lineman from Wild Rose, Wisconsin.

AstroTurf, the inventor of synthetic turf, has more than 50 years of experience and is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. Now part of SportGroup, the largest sports surfacing company in the world, AstroTurf has always advocated a “more fiber, less fill” philosophy with their turf systems. German-based SportGroup is the global leader in artificial turf systems with more than 7,000 artificial turf surfaces worldwide.

RDG Planning and Design and Opus Design Build, both in Des Moines, Iowa, are collaborating with Luther College on the football turf project.

The college has a webcam showing the progress of projects underway this summer, including the football turf and outdoor tennis courts. The camera is set up above the rear deck on Dahl Centennial Union, so alumni, friends and others interested can follow the projects’ progress. The valley-cam feed is available at www.luther.edu/valley-cam.

The Norse will begin hosting home games on the distinctive blue turf of Legacy Field in Carlson Stadium starting fall 2017 with the home opener against St. Olaf Sept. 9.

Athletics is integral to the fulfillment of Luther College’s mission. The educational experience at Luther not only disciplines the mind but also develops whole persons and prepares them to serve with distinction for the common good. With 19 intercollegiate teams, Luther is committed to providing an environment that encourages high levels of athletic performance and enables individuals and teams to challenge for conference, regional and national championships. For more information on Luther College athletics, visit the website, www.luther.edu/sports.