CCU one step closer in process to install artificial turf in stadium

Coastal Carolina University cleared one hurdle Thursday in its quest to replace the grass in Brooks Stadium with artificial turf, when the project was approved by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.

The $1.25 million project is being paid for with the initial funds from the $5 million donation made by TD Bank Group to the Chanticleer Athletic Foundation. The plan has been in the works for a while, said Matt Hogue, CCU’s interim athletic director, and the commission’s approval – one of several checkpoints in the state process for any university building or project – puts the plan one step closer toward completion.

CCU President Dave DeCenzo announced the company’s gift last fall, saying it will help grow the university’s environmental sustainability efforts, support athletic programs and provide endowed scholarships and academic support for summer school. The combined athletic facilities are to be named the TD Sports Complex, and the sustainability program is to become the TD Campus and Community Sustainability Initiative, with all of its “green” programs bearing the TD logo, although most plans are in the beginning stages.

“I’m in conversation with [TD Bank] now – it takes a lot of development to bring together their brand and our brand to change our look,” said Jennifer Sellers, CCU’s sustainability coordinator. “I’m hoping to see something this fall and have a big push [when students return to campus].”

The sustainability program always is evolving with changes in the population, the community and technology, Sellers said, and the donation will provide money for upcoming projects that haven’t even been named. Some ongoing campus projects include providing more Dero Fixit stations, which provide tools for self-service bike repairs, and water-refill centers, which have saved more than 800,000 water bottles thus far. The program also has a new waste reduction coordinator in place, she said, and there will be more collaboration with athletics, such as recycling efforts by “green” teams at the stadium and tailgating during football season. Sellers also wants to push alternative transportation options, such as free bicycles that are available for checkout and Zipcar service.

The artificial turf project next goes to the Joint Bond Review Committee and then the Budget and Control Board, said Eddie Dyer, the university’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. The project is expected to be approved with no problems because it is being paid for with private funds, he said.

Artificial turf holds many advantages for the university, Hogue said, because it doesn’t have to be watered or fertilized, and it drains and stands up to bad weather better than grass, giving CCU more mileage on the field. Stadium use, which is limited to football in the fall and women’s lacrosse in the spring to keep the grass intact, also will be expanded. Other varsity teams will be able to use the stadium for practice space – which now is limited and shared with student intramural and club sports – as well as for events, such as concerts.

“This is not Astrodome turf – it’s a new, state-of-the-art surface that many schools have gone to,” Hogue said. “It has give, and it plays and acts essentially the same as natural grass.”

Installation is expected to begin around December, after the upcoming football season concludes, Hogue said.