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Cajun Field gets new look

Cajun Field gets new look

Cajun Field gets new look

Bowl preparations include adding team colors to don field.

Dan McDonald

Local fans attending Tuesday’s New Orleans Bowl may not recognize Cajun Field … at least, not the field surface.
Bright green grass even in mid-December, including a distinctive "striping" at 5-yard intervals, and paints and colors not seen at normal University of Louisiana games are combining to create a stunning venue for Arkansas State and Southern Mississippi to meet in Tuesday’s first bowl game of the college season.

"It’s something different that people haven’t seen here," said Anthony Babineaux, who heads up the UL athletic complex’s grounds crew along with his assistant baseball coaching duties. "We’ve probably put a month’s worth of work in preparing the surface."

The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, sponsor of the game, authorized Babineaux and UL grounds director John Broderick to bring in outside help for the field’s preparation. The two groups have combined their efforts this week, after the regular UL crew did the "ground" work over the past month.
"Fields look different for bowl games than regular-season college games," said New Orleans Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante. "This is a perfect example. It looks really good."

The biggest difference is the planting of rye grass on the field, a process that began in early November and was repeated right after the Ragin’ Cajuns’ last home game. A total of 1,200 pounds of rye seed was used on the surface.

"Normally since the season ends in early November, we can push the Bermuda with fertilizers and it’s good through the season," Babineaux said. "With this in December, we needed the rye.

"We put 600 or 700 pounds down right before the last game (Nov. 12) and let the players pound it in for us, and that started coming up a couple of weeks later. We came back with 500 more pounds between the hashes and on the edges."

On top of that green surface are large logos for the bowl game and the two competing schools, much of that the work of "artist in residence" Ian Ridge, a regular part of Babineaux’s crew who worked both with stencils and freehand.

Ridge labored over the blue-and-gold gas lantern that adorns the middle of the New Orleans Bowl logo.

"I told Bab that I wanted the light," he said. "That’s sort of my stamp on the game."

Todd Hulbert of the Tulane grounds crew and Darren Seybold, former Houston Astros groundskeeper at Minute Maid Park and now a representative for Southern Athletic Fields, were added to the normal crew for bowl game preparations.

The crew began base painting one week ago and worked on detailing the fields all day Friday, in the cold and rain Saturday and all day Sunday.

"Our goal was to finish by the end of the day (Sunday)," Babineaux said, "to have it for the team walk-throughs Monday and when the television and media crew arrived."

Broderick said nearly 500 man-hours have been put in on field preparation for the game.

"It had to be perfect," he said. "This is the first bowl of the year. We had to set a standard for the rest of them. We’ve definitely set the bar pretty high."

Originally published December 19, 2005