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UL will unveil artificial turf at Cajun Field in 2008

When UL opens its 2008 home football schedule on Sept. 20 against Kent State, the Ragin’ Cajuns will be doing so on a brand-new field surface.

After 37 years of natural-turf games at Cajun Field, UL will whip out the plastic this fall. Construction of an artificial surface is scheduled to begin in March and is slated to be completed well in advance of the 2008 season.

"We’d been hearing about it for a while, but we just found out that it was happening," said senior quarterback Michael Desormeaux. "Everybody’s pretty excited about it."

"There have been so many advances in artificial fields," said UL coach Rickey Bustle. "They’re so much better than what they used to be. A lot of people are tearing their old turfs up and putting these new ones down."

The surface will be a step up from the turf put down last summer inside the new Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility. That turf uses small rubber pellets to provide a foundation for the turf bristles, but the turf that will cover Cajun Field will use a sand-based foundation.

"It’s going to be state of the art," said UL associate athletic director Scott Farmer, who made the announcement of the upcoming installation at UL’s recruiting bash Wednesday at the indoor facility. "The best thing is it’s going to look great 365 days a year. You’re not painting lines and logos, you’re not fertilizing or watering or cutting."

Farmer said that bids are currently out for the turf, with a bid deadline later this month. The bid calls for construction to begin March 1 and be completed by June 1, and Farmer estimated a $750,000 expenditure once bids are received.

"We’re probably spending more than $100,000 every year on maintenance of the field," he said, "and that doesn’t include the costs of equipment."

Desormeaux, heading into his second year as UL’s quarterback, said the biggest benefit will be a consistent playing surface.

"We’ve played some really muddy games there," he said. "That’s a disadvantage when you’re running the spread and you’re trying to throw it around. With this you’ll always know what kind of surface you’re going to have every day.

"We’ve heard that the sand-based stays cooler and is softer. I’ve never played on that type, so I’m anxious to see it."

UL did not have an available turf surface for practice until the indoor facility was opened in August, and the indoor field drew good reviews from the players and staff. But Bustle said that wasn’t the reason that UL decided to go to the artificial surface.

"A lot of people are going to this," Bustle said. "It doesn’t really change how you practice. But as much as we used it (indoors) last fall, we didn’t have any more injuries than you normally have. I know the kids enjoyed having it, and they’re excited about putting it on the game field."

UL’s conversion means that six of the eight Sun Belt Conference football teams will now play on artificial turf at home. The only teams with natural turf at home are Florida International and Florida Atlantic.