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Renovated Omnifield Will Open In Time for Fall Sports Season

By Kevin R. Lang

On September 10, what was once the most run-down and dangerous athletic facility at MIT will be the most modern. The omnifield, located between the tennis courts and Johnson Athletic Center, was resurfaced with Astroturf this summer and will soon be reopened for athletic use.

Construction crews began tearing up the existing field on June 7 in order to make way for the new astroturf. Workers are currently finishing the under-layers and “the turf will be delivered on Friday or Monday and we be installed as soon as the ‘e-layer’ is finished,” said Daniel Martin, assistant athletic department head for facilities and operations.

“We’re excited and I know the students will be, too,” said Martin.

The overall budget for the project is $1.6 million, which “provides not only for replacement costs, but also for the replacing surface and underlayer of material,” said John Hawes, project manager for the turf replacement.

Funds were allocated for the project by the Committee for the Review of Space Planning which includes such senior administration officials as Provost Robert A. Brown and Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72. The project is part of the infrastructure replacement budget.

Southwest Recreational Industries, the contractors for the operation, are installing astroturf-12 on the omnifield. Based out of Leander, Texas, SRI is the sole manufacturer of astroturf in the United States and is currently under contract with Harvard University for its new field construction.

Safety prompts replacement

The omnifield was closed in April after numerous complaints from both students and officials about the danger the field posed.

At that time, the field was over 12 years old. According to Martin, a turf field usually lasts between 8 and 10 years.

“Certainly safety was a concern,” said Hawes of the field replacement.

“The old turf was installed in 1986 and had run its useful cycle. As time went on, people’s concern for safety was raised,” Martin said.

Lacrosse team member Timothy P. Nolan ’01 said, “The omnifield is the worst field I’ve played on in my entire athletic career.” Nolan did not know of any specific turf injuries, but said that “everyone scrapes their knees and it gets really slick” in wet weather.

The administration moved to replace the turf swiftly after its shutdown in early April. Although initial plans were to replace the field during the fall semester, the timeline was moved up to have the turf ready for the fall sports season.

“The turf is the most important field we have. It is the only lighted and all-weather field at MIT. In the fall semester, it is used by field hockey, football, intramural soccer, as well as several club sports,” Martin said.

During the spring semester when the omnifield was shut down, many teams were required to relocate their practices to either the oval or Johnson causing problems with crowding.

“When you lose a key facility, it becomes a problem. The Institute stepped up to support us and we moved diligently to get it done,” said Martin.

Numerous changes in the replacement turf will improve safety on the field. According to Hawes, the old field had painted lines cut into it and sewn separately into the larger surface. This structure resulted in problems as the field began to show wear and tear.

The painted lines came undone from the main turf causing athletes to trip or twist their ankles on the protruding pieces. The new astroturf, however, will have integrated colored lines so there will be less danger to athletes as the field is subjected to normal use.

Susan Buchman contributed to the reporting of the article.