CEDAR FALLS — David Harris only had to peek outside the door of his office inside the UNI-Dome to see the progress.
Now with the finishing touches complete on the approximately $900,000 project to replace the UNI-Dome’s decade-old turf, Northern Iowa’s director of athletics can smile with pride on a well-executed project.
“It represents our commitment that our student-athletes have what they need to be able to compete at a high level and our responsibility to try to give them all the support we possibly can,” Harris said last week. “We can’t go out and make any blocks or make any tackles or throw any passes, and as a 45-year-old I don’t think anybody wants to see me do those things, but these are the kind of things we can do to give our young men a chance to go out on the football field and be successful.”
Funded from a restricted-use internal account that is available to address facility needs, the new 77,000-square foot surface comes in 26 rollable panels and is secured by a Velcro system.
AstroTurf began installing the new field in May and will be on campus this week for the final touches, which will include taking up and putting down the turf again.
Harris said the lifespan of the new turf will be similar to the old turf at 8-to-10 years, but the challenges of making it last that long won’t be as difficult this time.
“The last time around there were a number of challenges in trying to make sure the turf lived up to the lifespan,” Harris said. “There were a number of things that needed to be done to make sure it would continue to be a playable surface.
“This time around the lifespan will be similar, but we also expect the maintenance to be a lot simpler and a lot cleaner to get to that lifespan.”
The new surface features the UNI logo with a shaded outline of the state of Iowa at midfield. The end zones are shaded in purple and show the Panther logo as well as the word Panthers.
The design of the field was a team effort, according to Harris, with deputy athlete directors Justin Schemmel and Steve Schofield and head football coach Mark Farley providing input, as well as UNI president Mark Nook.
“I’d say it was a collective effort to come up with a surface that was not only good, but looked good and that our kids would be excited about,” Harris said.
The addition of the state of Iowa at midfield was introduced by Schofield, Harris said.
“We felt like it would be appropriate because we have so many kids who come from the state of Iowa,” Harris said. “We have so many kids university-wide when they finish here they remain in the state and they work in the state and raise families in the state.”
While he doesn’t have hard numbers, Harris said the new turf will help with injuries.
“Most of it is anecdotal information, but from listening to coaches, listening to our student-athletes and what it feels like to run on the surface or to the degree they are slipping on the surface … you know those type of things can cause injuries if you are running on a surface that is not giving you proper support,” Harris said.
“One of the things you could see in some situations with the old turf is spots where the seams came together you could see gaps in the seams or places where the transition from one panel to the next wasn’t clean and it doesn’t take much to kind of figure out, kind of predict that is a potential hazardous spot.
“We know injuries can occur at any time, but the new turf decreases the likelihood the surface plays any role in those injuries.”
The next major need for football is a team meeting room.
“We are in the beginning stages of looking at a team room for the football team,” said Harris. “Right now we have spent some time looking at different designs and beginning conversations with an architect and coming up with a design that fits the needs of the football program.