The football program went through a major redesign this offseason.
While the team was in the middle of reconfiguring its roster, a different type of reconstruction was occurring on the field of UB Stadium.
This past summer, a new turf field was installed after the old one was damaged in a polar vortex during the winter. The state of the old turf was discovered during the football team’s spring practices and a “state of emergency” was declared to fix it, according to Athletic Director Danny White. UB Athletics confirmed the field cost $1,097,000 to install.
“There were some ruts and uneven waves in multiple areas of the field,” said Assistant Athletic Director Jon Fuller. “Simply put, it was unplayable. Our first priority is the safety and well being of our student-athletes.”
The school paid $240,000 of the total cost out of its emergency fund, while the remaining $857,000 was released from Buffalo’s budget plan through the Capital Construction Program.
The state-run program, based out of Albany, approves the funds of state schools. Rather than wait almost two months for the money to be authorized because of state bid processes, the program allowed UB to take out needed funds and use them immediately.
“If we didn’t make the call, we wouldn’t be playing football in our stadium,” said Allen Greene, the deputy director of Athletics.
Stony Brook University Assistant Athletic Director Adam Gutes said he could not give the exact price for his SUNY school’s year-old field, but he described UB’s funding breakdown for the turf as “standard.”
UB’s new turf is part of the athletic department’s ongoing rebranding movement, the New York Bulls Initiative, or “#NYBI.” The new field features the word “Bulls” in each end zone, along with a shadowed outline of New York State on the 50-yard line. On top of the outline are the words “State University of New York Buffalo.”
“It’s a beautiful surface,” said head coach Jeff Quinn. “It jumps out at you – the colors, the watermark in the middle. It brings a good level of energy and excitement to the athletic program.”
A-Turf, a local synthetic surfacing company from local suburb Williamsville, installed A-Turf Titan on the field. It is the same product that was put down at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2011.
The A-Turf Titan has been lauded for its safety, as it possesses the No. 1 safety rating for turf fields in the industry, according to Fuller. The turf is known for reducing injuries because it is protected with ShockPad, a built-in material that reduces G-Max, a unit to measure player impact on a field.
The construction left UB teams without a game field to practice on. The football team spent its summer practicing on a grass field behind the stadium. The team took the news well, according to Quinn.
“Practicing on the grass was something the entire team accepted,” Quinn said. “Now, we have two practice fields; one grass and one turf. It’s actually a benefit to our program to get a feel of which surface we’ll be playing on that week.”
Construction concluded a couple weeks before the team opened up its season against Duquesne on Aug. 30. Once they we’re able to hit the field, the players were pleased with the new turf.
"I love it,” said sophomore linebacker Jarrett Franklin. “No more potholes or twisted ankles this year. It’s a great addition to the program.”
Sophomore running back Jordan Johnson said it was the best field he’s ever played on. He said it could help the team win more games this year.
The women’s soccer team got the first opportunity to play on the new turf in a 1-0 win over St. Bonaventure on Aug. 22. UB teams are undefeated on the new turf so far.
SUNY Albany installed a new field turf along with construction of a sports complex in the fall of 2013. Albany Deputy Athletics Director Rick Coe said football ticket sales have increased from averaging 2,000 ticket sales a game to 7,000 after the construction of the complex.
Along with the rebranding, the athletic department is hoping to use the field to increase exposure for its programs.
“We are trying to get the word out to the people that we are becoming the next big athletic brand of New York,” Fuller said. “We are going to have numerous games this year on ESPN and then everyone will be noticing.”
The new turf will make an appearance on ESPN’s flagship channel on Sept. 12, as the football team hosts nationally ranked Baylor.