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UL’s indoor field gets turf

UL’s indoor field gets turf

Indoor facility will be ready for fall season

What a difference a week makes.

After a period of uncertainty about the availability of UL’s new indoor practice facility, the building now has over 65,000 square feet of artificial turf covering the floor surface, and it is anticipated that the Ragin’ Cajun football team will have use of the building by the time fall practice begins next Saturday.

The Cajuns can thank project contractor M. D. Descant, Inc., for finding a replacement installer at the last minute, and Carter Construction and 35 Sports Systems for taking on a job they called twice as difficult as a normal turf installation.

"It’s been a challenge," said Lance Ellis of 35 Sports Systems. "You’re probably doing double the work here that you would on a regular field."

"We didn’t run from it when we saw the challenge," said Gary Carter of Carter Construction. "We want them to be proud of this field and we take a lot of pride in what we do. I’m hoping that’s why we got this job."

Claudia B. Laws/claws@theadvertiser.com

Workers remove extra pieces of turf from the newly-installed artificial turf field at the UL indoor practice facility Thursday. Work is expected to be completed next week.

Colorful history


When the turf contractors began rolling out the surface being installed at UL’s new indoor practice facility, they saw logos very familiar to Louisiana football fans.

The turf was last used on Jan. 4, 2004, when LSU beat Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl’s BCS national championship game in the Louisiana Superdome, and the painted logos signifying the title game and the large "OKLAHOMA" and "LSU" lettering from the end zones were still on the turf.

UL acquired the turf from the Superdome after that game and had it in storage until last week when installation began inside the Cajuns’ new building.

Because the turf was not installed at UL in the same pattern as it was removed from the Superdome floor, the names and logos are skewed around the surface. One end zone has half of "HOMA," with the "OKLA" somewhere near midfield.

"Some of the rolls were marked, and we knew that a schematic existed somewhere," said Gary Carter of Carter Construction, the firm installing the field. "But we didn’t have the luxury of time waiting for that schematic."

Lining up the logos and the field’s lines didn’t matter since the water-based paint will mostly disappear during the installation and top-dressing process. A chemical solution is used to remove any residue paint.

The Descant group contacted Carter Construction only two weeks ago when an earlier-arranged turf sub-contractor withdrew because of conflicts with other projects. That group would not have been available until mid-August, well after UL’s scheduled football report date of Aug. 3.

UL athletic officials, notably head football coach Rickey Bustle, were less than pleased with those prospects, but Descant was able to secure Carter’s services. Their company, based out of Fort Worth, began work last Thursday, and by Wednesday morning all of the floor surface was covered.

"There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re really glad that Dwight (Descant) was able to get someone to come in," Bustle said. "They worked really hard to get them here, and it looks like they’re on track to be done."

Carter said he anticipates the field to be fully installed by Monday. University crews will paint the field and the logos next week when installation is completed.

"We got the opportunity to come in," Carter said, "and we wanted to help out the university since they were looking at a deadline. The general contractor (Descant) and the university have been very helpful, very cordial and very cooperative. We wouldn’t be at this stage without them."

The turf was taken out of the Louisiana Superdome after the 2004 Sugar Bowl, when LSU beat Oklahoma 21-14 on Jan. 4, 2004, in the BCS national championship game. Since then, the large rolls have been stored in barns behind Blackham Coliseum.

The difficulty of the job increased exponentially because the ground rubber that stabilizes the plastic grass blades – recycled automobile tires reduced to the consistency of sand – was already embedded in the turf.

"We knew it was used, but we had no idea what condition it was in or how it was stored," Carter said. "Having the rubber in isn’t right or wrong, but it makes it extremely heavy."

A five-yard-wide strip of turf, sideline to sideline, normally weighs 1,200 pounds without the rubber filling, Ellis said. The turf used in UL’s building weighed almost 12,000 pounds for a similar strip since it already included much of the rubber material.

"That makes it extremely hard to put down and line up," Ellis said. "We pretty much faced every obstacle you can imagine. It was a difficult first couple of days … we were doing a lot of trial and error."

Carter said that and the time constraints were why he brought in Ellis, a turf specialist from Dothan, Ga.

"Even though it’s used, it’s still top of the line turf," Carter said. "The Superdome has pretty much the exact same style that’s here, and being indoors it should last for a long time."

"The turf itself is fine," said Ellis, who estimated the turf was used for less than 20 games while in the ‘Dome. "It’s kind of like a used car that didn’t have much mileage on it. It sat in storage longer than it was played on."

Workers were trimming seams on Wednesday and were scheduled to begin the gluing process and refilling the rubber by week’s end. Carter said he hoped to bring in machinery to top-dress the field over the weekend.

"It will look nice and be very serviceable," he said. "It won’t look brand new because it’s not, but it will be safe and serviceable. There won’t be any restrictions on what they want to do on the field."