LINCOLN — John Ingram ran his finger down a thick shoot of synthetic grass, turning it into a couple of individual blades.
“Tougher fiber,” the Nebraska associate athletic director said. “It won't get thin and break off like the old fiber did.”
These details matter to Ingram, who’s overseen in recent years a major overhaul of several Husker facilities, and now the installation of NU’s newest FieldTurf playing surface at Memorial Stadium. Performance on Nebraska’s best-known field is paramount.
But as the previous FieldTurf surface aged, Ingram said, Husker brass became less enthralled with how the field "wasn’t looking the way it needed to look for our program."
The tougher fiber should help the 85,000-square-foot field hold up. A new CoolPlay system using nine tons of cork bits instead of tire pellets for the top layer should cool the surface “up to 30 degrees” on hot days, Ingram said. And a slight change to one of the two tones used on the surface should please Husker fans who thought the contrast in green every five yards was too stark.
“The lighter green is not quite as light as the light green we put in in 2005,” Ingram said, confirming what Husker fans on social media have been saying for more than a week about leaked pictures. “I prefer this one. Looks a bit more like freshly mowed grass. I think fans will really like it. By design, we wanted it to look more like real grass. The lighter green before was a little bit too light.”
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On Wednesday, when Ingram led the news media on a brief tour, the field appeared brighter than ever in the afternoon sun. But the tire/sand base that will make up the two-inch base layer hadn’t yet been poured in and blended. So fans attending NU’s Aug. 2 Fan Day will see a slightly darker field. They’ll also see, for the first time since 1998, “Tom Osborne Field” emblazoned in red on both sidelines of the field. Osborne had asked when new turf was laid in 1999 for his name to be removed, Ingram said, because he thought it wasn’t fair to then-coach Frank Solich.
But a “collective decision” by Nebraska’s 11-person Senior Management Team chose to put it back on the field, Ingram said. Osborne was informed of the decision.
Ingram said NU had a “week to 10 days” left of work on the turf before it’s ready for heavy foot traffic. Fan Day, along with NU band practices, will help pack in the turf’s filling and have the field game-ready by the time the Huskers play Wyoming Aug. 31.
By then, the massive East Stadium project will be finished as well. Ingram said the East Stadium seats would be fine to sit in if the Huskers had to play a game tomorrow; only finishing touches remain. Ingram said the addition will create a “Wall of Red” that’s intimidating to opposing teams.
“I think it’s going to be tremendous,” Ingram said. “Obviously with the sellout streak and commitment from our fans for last 50 years, this sets us up nice for the next 50 years.”
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>> Video: See highlights from Wednesday's unveiling: