Vaught-Hemingway Stadium - Photo by Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium – Photo by Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics


As published in the July/August 2016 Football Preview of Rebel Nation Magazine™

There will be a noticeable difference at VHS this season, besides the expansion of the North Endzone, Ole Miss football will be returning to a natural grass playing surface for the 2016 season.

The stadium’s surface made the transition from grass to artificial turf in 2003 when a deal was signed with AstroPlay. The school switched to FieldTurf in 2009.

“It’s the right thing to do for our program on many levels,” Bjork said. “It’s the preferred playing surface of our players and coaches. In the SEC West only us and Arkansas have/had artificial turf. We think this is the right move for Ole Miss.”

We got the opportunity to talk with a spokesperson with Sports Turf about the installation process.

RN: How long has Sports Turf been in the field turf business and do they handle both natural grass fields and artificial or is Sports Turf strictly grass?

STC: Sports Turf Company, Inc. has been in business for 25 years and has built over 600 quality natural and synthetic fields, tracks, and courts.

Sports Turf Company, Inc. doesn’t just specialize in natural grass we also specialize in synthetic turf, tracks and tennis courts.

RN: Did Sports Turf handle the entire process from removing the old surface, constructing the dirt and drainage under the field as well as sod installation?

STC: Yes, Sports Turf handled the entire process, which included tearing away the synthetic surface, constructing the base layer and drainage and laying the sod. We are also constructing the two practice fields at the moment. Field one is synthetic turf and field two is natural grass.

RN: What type of grass is now on the VHS field and is there a reason that type was selected?

STC: Tifway 419 Bermuda is the type of grass that is now installed on VHS field. Tifway 419 Bermuda is extremely popular in the realm of athletic fields. It’s dense, rapidly spreading growth habit means it has a quick recovery from injury, making it one of the most durable hybrid Bermudus. This grass was chosen due to its incredible track record and the familiarity with Turfway.

RN: Where is the grass from?

STC: The grass is from South Dallas Sod Farm in Selma, AL

RN: How many truckloads of turf were delivered?

STC: We sent seven full loads and one partial load to the stadium the week of June 6th.

Each full load had 9,000 sq. ft. (26 rolls) and the partial load had 6,237sq. ft. (18 rolls) each roll contains 346.5 sq. ft. of sod. Total for all loads sent was 69,237 sq. ft.

RN: How many sq. ft. of sod was laid down?

STC: 160,000 sq. ft. of sod is what we are currently estimating but we are still waiting for the exact calculation.

RN: How long will it take for the sod to root and will it be ready by September 10 for Ole Miss’ opening home game?

STC: The sod will begin to root and knit together within the next 2-3 weeks. There is no question that it will be ready for Ole Miss’ opening home game on September 10. It will be ready to go much sooner than that.

RN:  As far as the temperatures on the fields during the early hot months of college football in the south, how much cooler is a grass field as opposed to the artificial turf fields?

STC: A natural grass field is approximately 35-40 degrees cooler than a synthetic turf field.

RN: When Ole Miss last had a grass field there was a problem with the shade from the South End Zone overhang. The grass in the south end zone in return did not get the proper amount of sun throughout the day or dry properly causing a fungus to develop. From my knowledge, that was a main reason Ole Miss switched to artificial turf. Will this be a problem with the new surface and how has the technology changed to prevent this from happening again with the new grass?

STC: Ole Miss did have a previous problem with shade from overhangs not allowing the grass to flourish properly. The high traffic areas such as the sidelines also suffered, which drove them to synthetic turf. The new stadium is actually a mixture of synthetic and natural turf. The playing surface is strictly natural grass, while the sidelines and edges of high traffic are synthetic turf. These areas are also the ones that may have been shaded in the past. This will help or completely eliminate the destruction of natural grass from shade and high traffic.

RN: What are some of the safety reason teams are switching back to real grass? 

STC: I don’t think the switch back to natural grass from synthetic turf was due to an injury or safety standpoint. Sports and more specifically football was intended to be played on a natural grass surface. The heat index most likely played a part in the switch to natural grass, 35-40 degrees’ difference is a significant factor. There are only two schools in the SEC West that currently have synthetic turf fields.

Synthetic turf has its own place in the industry and there are plenty of safe synthetic turf options. This switch back to natural grass is not due to the playability or safety factor of the existing artificial field that was installed.

There have been no studies that prove that there are more injuries caused on a synthetic or natural grass field.

RN: Is this a growing trend of fields that were converted to artificial turf switching BACK to real grass?

STC: Over the years there has been a slight increase. I wouldn’t use the term trend because it is more of a case to case basis. Whether a school choses synthetic or natural depends solely on the school’s ability to manage it, the climate of the area and the amount of traffic on the field.

Synthetic fields are mostly used for multipurpose fields and fields with a high amount of traffic.

The University of Mississippi has the infrastructure to maintain a natural grass field at a high level of competition and the field is solely utilized for football games. – RN

This is just a sample of the type of features you’ll find in every issue of Rebel Nation Magazine™. The Sept/Oct issue is up next. Subscribe online here or find a store location near you here and pick up a copy.

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