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AstroTurf to give University of Michigan baseball, softball stadiums new playing fields

October 18, 2013  - By

The University of Michigan has chosen AstroTurf to install new synthetic turf fields in both the baseball and softball stadiums as part of the facility upgrades to its Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex. Site excavation is currently underway and each of the new artificial playing surfaces will be rolled out in the following weeks.

The Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex, which houses Ray Fisher Stadium and Alumni Field, underwent a $9 million renovation in 2008. It included new locker room and training facilities with modern amenities, administrative offices, improved spectator seating, and an architectural overhaul. But after a few years it became clear there was one issue of functionality that needed to be addressed – the natural grass fields. A February kickoff to the college season coupled with a Great Lakes Region climate meant that the fields were deluged with inclement weather and rarely available for games or practice until well into the spring. An AstroTurf field was the solution.

Bulldozers, trucks, and dirt piles currently dominate the scene at Wilpon as the team at Eagle Excavation handles the site work prior to field surfacing. This phase includes base construction and implementation of the extensive drainage systems, which enable the artificial surfaces to recover so quickly after heavy precipitation. Once completed, AstroTurf Construction Manager Brian O’Neal will lead his crew in the installation of the new synthetic turf fields, starting with the softball playing surface at Alumni Field. The AstroTurf installation unit will then move on to Ray Fisher Stadium and lay down the new artificial playing surface for Michigan Baseball.

AstroTurf’s Diamond Series artificial turf will be installed at Ray Fisher Stadium. According to the company, these baseball systems are designed to perform like natural fields, which entails replicating the playability of both grass and clay. Proprietary synthetic fibers and specialized infill ratios, developed through years of research and development, combine to give the surface its natural feel. Superior durability and tufted binding allow for shorter pile heights and greater sustained height variation between the grass and clay areas, producing a ball bounce consistent with the surface disparities of a typical baseball field, the company says.

Alumni Field, home of Michigan Softball, also will be upgraded. Although it will retain a true clay skinned infield, the outfield grass and warning track will be resurfaced with AstroTurf synthetic turf. The renovation process also will include dugout improvements and the addition of video boards to both baseball and softball facilities at Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex.

Since arriving at Michigan in 1985, the softball program under head coach Carol Hutchins has never had a losing season. The Wolverines have won 16 of the last 21 Big 10 titles and made ten trips the Women’s College World Series, including last year. After winning it all in 2005, the two-time national Coach of the Year recipient was elected to the NSCA Hall of Fame in 2006.

UM Baseball is under relatively new leadership with head coach Erik Bakich. The baseball program at Michigan counts 36 Big 10 titles and two College World Series championships among its storied achievements. The Wolverines have sent a slew of stars to the majors, including recently inducted Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, as well as one of the MLB’s most inspirational figures, pitcher Jim Abbott.


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