When Rutgers Athletics needed to renovate the football practice fields into what director of athletics Pat Hobbs calls “the best practice facility in professional or college football today,” they knew they didn’t have to go far for input on the turf renovation. In fact, they went no further than Rutgers for the guidance, and South Jersey for the sod.
As part of the “R Big Ten Build” targeted campaign, Rutgers Athletics completed a top-to-bottom renovation of the existing football practice field complex. The project, which began in the spring and was completed on Aug. 1, 2017, was made possible through a gift from Jeff and Amy Towers. The upgraded practice complex features two new grass fields; complete with rebuilt drainage and a new irrigation system as well as a state-of-the-art LED lighting system.
Rutgers Athletics held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly dedicated Marco Battaglia Practice Complex on August 6. Named for former consensus All-American and Big East Offensive Player of the Year, the complex will serve as the practice site for the football program.
In the fall of 2016, Matt Colagiovanni, senior associate athletic director – facilities, events and operations, asked extension specialist in turfgrass management Jim Murphy in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Department of Plant Pathology, to participate in developing a state-of-the-art design concept for re-constructing two natural grass practice fields. Murphy said, “The project was done on an amazingly fast timeline. Initial design concepts began in October 2016, with donor agreement in November. Ground breaking was in March 2017. First sod was transplanted in June 2017. Grand opening on August 6, 2017. And football has been practicing as much as the rules allow on the fields since mid-August. Success!”
The home-grown turf field is cutting edge. The field design used the information gained from Murphy’s research at the Center for Turfgrass Science at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to design the sand-based rootzone, drainage and irrigation systems. The sod selected was Kentucky bluegrass variety developed by Rutgers world-renowned turfgrass breeding program and grown at Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, NJ. The irrigation system allows highly customizable scheduling and highly accurate application within the fields. It also includes soil water sensors, which enables very accurate and efficient irrigation scheduling. The drainage system is also designed to be fitted, if needed, with a SubAir system to enhance drainage.
Apropos to the sport, the practice field renovation was a team effort. Murphy said, “The generosity of Jeff and Amy Towers created the opportunity for Rutgers to build a best-in-class practice complex for football. It was essential to the Towers that natural grass fields be constructed using state-of-the-art concepts for drainage, turfgrass and management of the grass.” This led to Murphy’s involvement, assisted by Plant Biology graduate students Kyle Genova and Hui “Eric” Chen. Genova and Chen helped Murphy monitor the field construction process and recommended necessary modifications to the fields during construction.
Tuckahoe Turf Farms, which provides turf for major ball parks and football fields as well as sports fields at schools, universities and municipalities throughout the U.S., supplied and installed the turf.
While turfgrass installation may not be considered dramatic, this slow-motion video by RVision of the Marco Battaglia Practice Facility turf installation may prove otherwise: https://youtu.be/eDzS2D56P-8