Stadium home to world-class turfgrass
By Neil Fausset
Each fall, thousands of students, alumni and fans flood the Purdue campus to watch the Boilermakers take the field at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Photo provided by Purdue Sports Information
Purdue receiver Dorien Bryant returns a punt for the Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. The stadium’s turf is regarded as one of the best playing surfaces in the nation.
What most people don't realize, however, is the amount of time and preparation it takes to make Ross-Ade's playing surface one of the best in the United States. "We have one of the top football fields in the nation," said Zac Reicher, an agronomy professor and Exension turfgrass specialist.
The football field is made of prescription athletic turf (PAT) and was designed in the 1970s by Bill Daniel, a now-retired agronomy professor. Reicher describes PAT as a big bathtub filled with sand with grass on top."Sand works so much better for drainage of the field than soil or clay," said Reicher.
"The playing surface at Ross-Ade can take a significant amount of water or snow and you'll never get a muddy field. PAT also allows the field to be a perfectly flat surface." PAT's flat, dry surface allows players to move quicker without slipping and sliding the way they would on poorly-drained fields.
Nationwide, about 35 universities, including two Big Ten schools, use the turf. It is also used in numerous Major League Baseball and National Football League stadiums, including the Chicago Bears' Soldier Field and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium.
Getting to the root of the matter
The Purdue Turf Science program has approximately 75 undergraduate students who are learning how to develop lawn maintenance programs, control turfgrass diseases and manage professional turfgrass.
Find out more:
Purdue Turf Science
Al Capitos, a sports turf specialist and manager of all the playing surfaces at Purdue, says it takes five full-time employees to maintain the playing surface. "It takes all week to get the field in good playing condition," said Capitos. "From repairs to paint on the field, we do it all. We check each square inch of the field to fix divots, reseed places where grass is at a minimum, and fill in low spots every week."
Jonathan Patton, a Boilermaker defensive end, has seen his share of time on the field. The freshman organizational leadership and supervision major from Chicago says Ross-Ade's field is possibly the best he's ever played on. "I think that the field is great," said Patton. "It has to rate p there as one of the top fields in the United States. It's easy to run on and it is real smooth."
For the past eight years, the Purdue football team has been invited to a post-season bowl game. Is it fair to credit some of that success to Daniel's turfgrass studies? Maybe not, but PAT's smooth, dry surface certainly helps the Boilermakers play to the best of their abilities.