Varsity field transitions to turf

Eastern’s home soccer matches need never be rained out again. Homecoming games won’t be played in apparent inches of muddy slop. And if anyone feels the urge, they will be able to plow six inches of snow off the lacrosse field in order to get an early start on the season.

After years of problems with weather-related deterioration of the primary soccer and lacrosse field, the athletic department is in the process of hiring a contractor to replace the current grass field with synthetic turf. The new field will be playable in virtually all weather conditions and is expected to pay for itself by bringing in rental money through conferences, according to athletic director Harry Gutelius.

Construction is expected to begin with a groundbreaking ceremony after Spring Break, the culmination of years of research and planning led by soccer coach Mark Wagner and campus services director Rob Smith.

As the work is being done in the spring, only the women’s lacrosse team will lose the use of the field for games. Several of their home games will be played at a field owned by Radnor Township, while the rest will be moved to the other teams’ fields.

Junior Julianne Ferguson is a co-captain of the lacrosse team who is happy for the inconveniences because of the competitive edge the team hopes to enjoy next year.

Most other teams in the PAC have grass fields, including perennial rival and 8-time women’s lacrosse champion Cabrini College.

“That’s the main thing, having a better field than Cabrini,” Ferguson said.

According to Ferguson, turf fields play faster than grass, and somehow they seem to produce faster lacrosse teams. The field at Villanova, where the team practices this season, is made of turf.

That field produces scheduling problems of a different sort for the team. Having last choice for field usage means they get the worst possible times to practice.

“It’s pretty bad turnover when you have to practice at 9 and then get up at 6 the next morning,” Ferguson said. “But you take what you can get.”

The off-season practices of other teams will be affected as well. But constructing the new field in the spring rather than the summer cuts costs, according to Gutelius. It also allows Eastern to begin making money by renting the field this very summer.

“We will recoup the cost of the field over a few years,” Gutelius said, and it will be a potential moneymaker in the long run. Besides the expected rental revenue, donations are being solicited.

At least three contractors were expected to submit bids by last Friday. Then the selection process will be completed.

“As soon as that company is selected, in very short order we will begin the project,” Gutelius said. “The critical thing is that the project must be complete before the summer conference schedule begins.”

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