Aug. 25, 2008
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DeKALB - After months of bulldozing, pipe-laying and laser-leveling, workers from Mondo USA began installing the artificial turf at the new Northern Illinois Track and Field/Soccer Complex over the weekend.
The facility is expected to be ready for play for the start of the women's soccer team's Northern Illinois Invitational, Friday. Until last week, almost all the work had been focused on installing a state-of-the-art drainage system, and building the underground support structures for the new surface.
The soccer field is being built to the specifications of a FIFA 2-Star pitch, which means it is able to pass a series of vigorous tests to ensure it fits in FIFA's (International Federation of Association Football) parameters for ball roll, bounce, rebound, shock absorbtion and 22 other properties.
"We're getting a Fifa 2-Star quality surface, and that's quite significant," Head Men's Soccer Coach Steve Simmons said. "What that means is you can play top-level matches on it. For us, in particular, we can host NCAA events as if the surface were natural grass."
The surface will allow for a consistency that grass does not guarantee, and open the field for training for more of the year. Head Women's Soccer Coach Carrie Barker added that artificial turf helps neutralize the sometimes unpredictable weather in northern Illinois.
"(On turf) you can control your environment, and have an idea of how the game is going to be played," Barker said. "There's no saying 'it's too wet' or 'too bumpy'. It will be a perfect environment to play on."
Prior to the actual playing surface's installation, several underneath layers were put into place to help keep the field ready for action in almost any weather. When rain falls on the new turf, it will quickly move through the pitch thanks to a foot-thick layer of P-210 stone. A herringbone channel drainage system then directs the water to a retention pond, keeping the field ready for play.
"So much of what makes this facility great is what you can't see," Simmons said. "It's tough to appreciate the difference a sophisticated drainage and anti-freeze system makes by attending a match. But the difference for us when it comes to training and playing is undeniable."
The soccer surface is just one part of the top-notch combination facility that will include an eight-lane track, separate pole vault and high jump areas, three long jump pits, and a throws area immediately to the south of the track. Like the soccer field, the new track surface will be nearly impermeable to damage from rain and snow, thanks to a water-proof "sandwich system" that layers two synthetic materials.
There will be limited access to the new facility for the next several weeks, as the track is put into place, scoreboard is installed and fan amenities are added.