(The following press release and photos were submitted from Southern Miss.)
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – The start of a new era began last Monday (Oct. 28) at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field as demolition and groundwork started on replacing the natural playing surface at the facility.
Sports Contractors Unlimited, LLC, out of Hattiesburg, Miss., started the removal of the playing surface Monday morning and will be preparing the base for the installation of synthetic turf to be completed by FieldTurf. The project, which should take 10 weeks to complete, will be similar to those installations done at other notable college baseball programs like Houston, Louisville, Oregon State, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech and Washington.
“Last Monday was an exciting day for our program as we start the transition from natural grass to a synthetic grass surface,” said Southern Miss baseball coach Scott Berry. “I want to thank those people who stepped up and invested in this project and made it a reality. This surface will allow us to elevate our recruiting and development of the student-athlete as we continue to strive to reach our goals in this competitive college baseball world. I’m very excited about partnering with FieldTurf and Sports Contractors Unlimited, LLC as the companies who will do the work. We look forward to opening the season on Feb 14, 2020 with a new look at The Pete.”
Benefits to installing a synthetic playing surface:
* Pete Taylor Park has been in need of a total playing surface renovation. The last time the outfield was replaces was in 1993. The infield in 2013. It is suggested the infield be redone every 5 years and outfield every 10-15 years.
* Gives the baseball facility and program another boost in helping in the recruitment of players as well as their development when they arrive on campus. Following the installation of the baseball weight room addition at Pete Taylor Park prior to the 2015-16 year, the Golden Eagles have been is 175-75 – its best four-year period record in the history of the program - with two C-USA regular-season titles and three C-USA Tournament crowns, to go along with four consecutive NCAA Regional appearances.
* Enables both players and coaches to be on the field more consistently. Over the past two years the team has lost significant development/practice time because of wet field conditions. Also, the NCAA has mandated an additional 14 days of practice that must be eliminated from all programs over the year. This gives the team no room to miss practice days or have them cut short if possible.
* Encourages players to work more on their own because of eliminating set up time and requirements that natural grass and dirt requires.
* Allows for better scheduling opportunities for non-conference opponents who are not within our geographical footprint with greater assurance that games will be played, while also providing additional leverage to host an NCAA Regional and/or Super Regional.
* Eliminates expenses associated with the upkeep of natural grass as well as eliminating the tarp, which is a costly piece of equipment that requires a lot of man hours to put on and take off of the field.
* Reduces, if not eliminates need to cancel games. Over the past two years, wet weather caused the athletics department to adjust the home schedule in order to get games played. Nine doubleheaders and two games were cancelled with no makeup games over that time.
* From an economic standpoint, FieldTurf enables the program to have more tournaments, camps and events year-round which will have a positive economic impact our surrounding community.
* Recruiting is the lifeblood of every competitive program today. The NCAA has adjusted the rules for no unofficial visits prior to September 1 for student-athletes during their junior year. Early commitments are becoming common place in athletics. In order to get these prospective student-athletes on campus, the facility needs to offer more travel tournaments, camps and other events. Field Turf gives the assurance these events won’t be rained out and teams will want to attend.
* From an appearance standpoint, FieldTurf maintains a spring season game day look with the grass always green and a beautiful striped pattern. It will never have the bad worn out areas that is created by high traffic areas seen with natural grass.