Janesville68.9°

New class of grass

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THOMAS J. MILLER
August 21, 2008
— Bob Berezowitz has always been a grass man.

The man who was UW-Whitewater's football coach for 22 seasons until 2007 always treated the field at Perkins Stadium like it was his lawn. Whenever the scorching, dry days of August rolled around, you could always count on the football field being as green and lush as it was in late May.


On Tuesday afternoon, however, the Perkins Stadium improvement project director admitted that nothing could top the look of the new FieldTurf surface at the stadium.


"This all came about after playing three years in the playoffs," Berezowitz said amid the noise of tractors. "This field took a beating with salt and everything with the weather. It took a toll on us because in October, with daylight savings time, we had no (outdoor lighted) place to practice.


"This was a no-brainer. It was something we needed."


Workers were spreading—more like pouring—fine sand and rubber pellets on the field Tuesday. When the work was completed Wednesday, there was an average of 8.6 pounds of sand and pellets per square foot on the field.


The sand and rubber pellets are used to cushion and stabilize the FieldTurf, which arrived at Perkins Stadium in rolls like carpeting. The strands of the rubberized "grass" are much like shredded plastic grocery bags.


They are embedded into a thin black rubberized mat. There are holes—too small to see unless you get your nose down deep—in the mat.


The sand and rubber pellets are in addition to the about six inches of crushed stone and a layer of sand that is under the carpet. The project was delayed a week because the first layer of crushed stone contained too much dirt, which could have plugged the type of drainage the field will have.


There should never be a problem with a wet field.


"We had a downpour last Thursday," Berezowitz said. "It rained hard. We came out here right after that, and there wasn't any problem."


And there shouldn't be.


"To test this before we put (the turf) on, we put 35,000 gallons of water on here," Berezowitz said. "That is more than we'll ever see."


The Warhawks' All-America kicker, Jeff Schebler, couldn't stop grinning as he watched the crew spreading the sand and pellets. Schebler remembers kicking in NCAA Division III playoff games the past three seasons when the field was frozen.


In addition, with the drainage system, the field is now level. The grass field had a crown that was 18 inches higher in the center of the field than on the sidelines to assist drainage.


And if it snows, PCP piping is placed on the blade of a plow, and the field can be cleared as fast as a parking lot.


The Warhawks finally get to practice on the field tonight. It still needs a good soaking to settle the pellets and sand, and that will be done next week.


Everything will be completed when the defending NCAA Division III champion Warhawks hold the "grand opening" Sept. 5 when St. Xavier comes in to open the season.


The field is only part of the $1.3 million project. A concrete walkway around the field is nearly complete and handicap assess to the bleachers is now available.


A brick archway will welcome fans into the stadium.


New sod has been installed all around the field, and $18,000 worth of flowers and trees were donated by a landscape company owner who played offensive guard for Forrest Perkins when he was head football coach.


All the activity has become a mini-tourist attraction for Whitewater residents.


"They've been checking it out," Berezowitz said.


Berezowitz envisions having high school playoffs at the stadium, and even talked about eventually having the WIAA championship games at Whitewater, which would be a better crowd fit than Camp Randall Stadium.


Berezowitz is still a grass man, but he couldn't help but admire what has happened in his second "backyard."


"It's pretty exciting," he said. "I mean, La Crosse is building a new stadium, but how are they going to outdo this?"



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