Roos Field renovation under way as work to replace turf begins


Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner

The process of replacing the turf at Roos Field has begun.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

The process of “out with the old and in with the new” in regards to EWU’s famous red turf at Roos Field has begun. Construction on replacing the old turf with new, more modern turf is under way…and the global pandemic is actually helping the process. 

“As soon as we got word that no one was allowed on campus and events began to be cancelled, we said, ‘Well, we can move it on up,’” deputy athletic director Devon Thomas said. 

Originally, the process of replacing the turf was going to have to be done quickly. After football summer camps ended in July, Coast to Coast Turfthe Spokane-based vendor hired to do the job, would have had to change the field in time for August workouts in preparation for football season. However, since the reality of COVID-19 forced the cancelation of summer activities and rendered Roos Field almost entirely unused, the start date on turf replacement was moved up to late May and is under way.

“The original plan was to begin at the conclusion of our football camps,” Moeller said. “That would’ve left a time window of only five weeks when eight to nine weeks are normal.” 

Coast to Coast Turf agreed to begin the process earlier and even said they could have the new turf in by early July, but EWU wanted to take its time in deciding graphics. According to Moeller, EWU split the work into two phases.

“One was turf removal and field preparation,” Moeller said. “Then there is going to be a four-to-five week dead period. Then (Coast to Coast Turf) will come with the turf and lay it out and install.”

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner

Before the new turf could be laid in, its design had to be decided. EWU did a marketing campaign where fans could choose from four design choices and vote on their favorite via social media. The winning design will feature a change in wording in the end zones. Instead of “Eastern” in the north end zone and “Washington” in the south end zone, the wording will be “Eastern” to the north and “Eagles” to the south. 

“This is a 10-plus year iconic venue, so we wanted to give fans an opportunity to take a look at it,” Thomas said. 

According to Thomas, the concern EWU got most often from fans when this renovation project was announced was needing assurance that the turf would still be red. 

“The resounding sentiment was, ‘As long as we stay red,’” Thomas said. “There were emails and comments on fan sites that just said ‘Hey, make sure we stay red.’ We had to reiterate to the public that yep, this is just a new playing surface.” 

Replacing the nearly 10-year-old turf is the first step in the Roos Field renovation project agreed to by the Board of Trustees in September 2019. The project has sought to raise $25 million in private funds to improve many of the amenities and functions of the football stadium at EWU. Some other parts of the renovation will include removing the track and putting it in a different location, changing the structure of the stands and replacing individual seats.

The cost to replace the turf came around $1 million. The necessary funds were raised quickly when Jack Gillingham, a local businessman, made a donation of $5 million to the renovation project in mid-September. 

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner

“The bids came in much less than what we anticipated,” senior project manager of construction and planning services Jim Moeller said. “For some reason the vendors that we contacted were very, very interested in doing our field because of the publicity that it receives. If they say ‘We’re the ones that installed the red field at Eastern,’ that’s a badge of honor that they could present to other customers.”

Before placing the new turf, a material must go underneath that, in the words of Moeller, will give the field more “spring.” The old turf was hard and rigid with its old age, and minimizing the impact of players hitting the field was a priority. EWU will also be installing more electrical utilities for better access to water and gameday data as part of subgrade preparation. 

The runways for long jump, pole vault and triple jump will be removed as a safety precaution.

The new turf will be AstroTurf. EWU reached out to three types of turf companies, including SprinTurf and Field Turf, before deciding on AstroTurf. Moeller said the installation process of AstroTurf is much faster.

“The turf we selected is constructed differently than the other turfs,” Moeller said. “It’s a shorter, denser construction that when a player slides or falls to the ground, there isn’t the rooster-tailed spray of black crumbs … we believed this was the most advanced and would provide the safest surface to play on.”

The old turf has been removed. In its place is simply the compact gravel that lay underneath it, leaving a once red beacon of campus a dull, dark gray. Once the new turf is installed, however, the sense of The Inferno will remain the same.