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War Memorial Stadium, Wyo. — A New Battlefield

By Kevin Burrows, LSMP assistant editor




Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium was built in 1950, and at an elevation of 7,220 feet, is the highest Division I football stadium in America. The altitude coupled with its notorious crowd noise give Wyoming a home field that has long been one of the most feared places to play in college football. Consequently, the Cowboys have won over 69 percent of their games on their home turf.
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The football field at War Memorial Stadium on Wyoming’s campus went through a major transformation in the spring and summer of 2005. Bucking tradition, the Cowboys decided to replace the natural grass surface that had been in place for over a half century in favor of a new type of synthetic turf that had never been used in college football. The new Desso Challenge Pro 60 Monofilament Synthetic Turf along with some other renovations gave an added punch to an already impressive facility. The photos on the next few pages illustrate the 10 week journey of this 55 year old stadium from old and outdated to fresh, clean and state of the art.

“The War” opened on Sept. 16, 1950, with a 61-13 win over Montana State, followed by an official dedication the following week. The stadium’s original capacity was 20,000. It was expanded to 25,500 in 1970, and the seating was increased to 33,500 in 1978. Following reconstruction of the west upper seating in the summer of ‘04, the current capacity is now 32,580.






Weeks 1-4—A month into the renovation, all existing sod has been sold or removed, goalposts have been taken out and concrete along the sidelines has been removed. The conduit pipes are currently being installed below the field. Crews have also brought the grade of the field to the required elevations in preparation of the sub-grade material. Installation of the subsurface drainage system will be installed in week five and is scheduled to take about three weeks to complete. While these projects are being completed, the installation of the new goal posts moves forward as well. All of this is done to make sure the field is prepared when the actual monofilament turf is installed the last three weeks of construction.







Two years after successfully changing from natural grass to synthetic turf at War Memorial Stadium, Wyoming recently finished construction on an indoor practice facility for football and soccer. Completed in August of 2007, the same surface can be found inside the new complex as on Jonah Field.


Then, in April of 2005, War Memorial Stadium began its most striking transformation, when it tore out its 55-year-old natural grass surface and installed artificial turf.

The process began when crews cut the half-century old natural grass surface into strips, which were offered for sale to the public. Despite a mid-week snow storm that slowed sales, fans were able to purchase their piece of Cowboy Football history at a cost of fifty cents per foot on a first-come-first-served basis.

According to UW Athletics Director Gary Barta, the new surface, known as Desso Challenge Pro 60 Monofilament Synthetic Turf, is the first of its kind in Division 1A football. Made up of rubber pellets that have a cushioning effect, the new turf allow players’ cleats to dig in as if on natural grass.






Weeks 5, 6—With the project on schedule, foundations for the goal posts were poured. The contractor poured concrete aprons on each side of the field for the trench drains and began installing the underground drain piping. Two new entrances to the stadium are being prepared on the east side, as well as a new entry ramp into the student section from the southeast corner.







Week 7—The crushed rock field base, covered with a layer of rolled sand is now almost completely in place, making the field ready for turf installation, which has been delivered in rolls.







The new goal posts have been installed and painted. The contractor is completing installation of the underground drain piping, and is spreading a crushed rock field base.







Week 8—The final phase of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium playing surface make-over began this week when crews started laying the new synthetic turf.


Installation

The turf project began with removal of the old sod and topsoil. Concrete along the end-zones and sidelines was replaced, along with installation of new goalposts. After backfilling areas to reach grade, trenches were dug for the drainage system. When that stage was completed, landscaping fabric was laid and an eight-inch base of crushed rock was spread across the entire field for drainage purposes. A layer of sand was rolled over the crushed rock as the final preparation before turf installation. The artificial surface incorporates crumb-rubber “in-fill,” which gives an added layer of cushion to give it a natural grass feel.

American Civil Constructors of Littleton, Colo., was awarded the contract for the turf installation and worked on the field from mid-April through mid-August of 2005 to complete the job. The total project cost was just under $1 million, and was funded by the athletic department’s facility campaign along with matching funds from the State of Wyoming.






Week 9—The endzone lettering, shown here along with the school logos have been cut and laid into the field. At the center of the field is a brown bucking horse and rider has been completed and outlined in gold.







The crumb-rubber “in-fill” is shown here being brushed into the surface of the turf. The last step to complete the project, these rubber pellets give the field its unique softness and natural-grass feel.


Maintenance

According to Bill Atencio, University of Wyoming Assistant AD to Facilities, the field does not require a great deal of maintenance, at least compared to the natural surface that preceded it.

Atencio said that on game days he arrives at the Field at 5:30 a.m. and leaves at or after midnight. His crew consists of 15 full time employees as well as anywhere from 10-15 students during the summer months. Unlike the many issues superintendents face on a natural surface, the biggest problem his staff faces is pine needles falling onto the field. The potentially hazardous nuisance requires regular sweeping to keep the field clear. To make sure they get into ever nook and cranny, his team employs a John Deere Gator to sweep the turf.

To kill any possible harmful bacteria that may build up on the artificial surface, once a year the chemical disinfectant is used to clean the field. “This kills any chance of infection,” said Atencio.






Completion—After three and a half months of construction, the turf renovation is complete. Cutouts of hash marks, numbers, logo and end zones are the final touches to finish the project. The new surface sports brown end zones with gold lettering, “Wyoming” at one end, and “Cowboys” at the other.


During the season, the field and stadium are cleaned after every game. One of the fraternities on campus along with a group from Wyotech, a local automotive technical school, take part in the clean up effort. “We clean the big stuff first, then blow the small stuff down (from the stands),” said Atencio.

An outside contractor comes in on Thursdays and Fridays and sweeps in and around the stadium to get it ready for game day.


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