Our view: Worn-out turf is proof of field’s value

November 15, 2018

Lourdes’ second baseman Clara Radloff, right, tags out Pine Island’s Emilie Rucker during a Hiawatha Valley League game on April 16 at the Rochester Regional Stadium bubble.

Football fans who did some channel-surfing on Saturday afternoon got to see Ohio State playing at Michigan State, as well as Iowa State hosting Baylor.

These are big-time college programs, yet what these two games had in common was a playing surface that was lousy, with players slipping and sliding all over the place. Winter cold has arrived early in the Upper Midwest, and even the best natural-grass playing fields don’t hold up well when the daytime highs don’t get above the freezing mark.

Yet right here in Rochester, athletes get to practice and compete year-round on a state-of-the-art playing surface at Rochester Regional Stadium.

We can say without equivocation that this stadium, along with the dome “bubble” that is being set up this week, has been a fantastic investment for both the city and Rochester Community and Technical College, which collaborated to build the complex. This complex has become a true workhorse, hosting football, soccer and lacrosse at levels ranging from high school to professional — often at times when natural grass fields in this region are unplayable, such as late fall and early spring.

The stadium also has become a destination for teams throughout the region, with small-town football teams vying for a chance to play section championships under the bright lights on a field that’s among the best in the state.

And we’re about to enter the time of year when athletes young and old will flock to “the bubble” to play soccer, softball and baseball, practice nordic skiing and enjoy a variety of other recreational activities — all in climate-controlled comfort and on a playing surface that is actually safer than natural grass.

But that surface is wearing out.

While some people might be taken aback by the notion of RCTC and the city spending $600,000 to replace the turf at the stadium, we actually see this is a good thing — kind of like replacing the worn-out tires on a kid’s bike. A bike that never needs new tires is a bike that isn’t being used. The money for the new turf will come from RCTC’s budget and the fees organizations pay to rent the bubble.

It’s a busy place, which means the turf seldom gets a day off, and it isn’t meant to last forever. Unlike the rock-hard carpet that once covered the floor of the Metrodome, today’s artificial turf fields are soft — almost spongy — and are engineered to lessen the impact of running and falling, even when the weather is cold. If you’ve never walked or run on such a field, it’s worth checking out.

The bottom line is that the Regional Sports Stadium and bubble have become an integral part of our region’s sports-and-recreation culture, and it’s especially important for the next four months. People who might otherwise be sitting at home all winter will instead be running, playing, sweating and socializing under the bubble.

The new turf will be installed next year, and if we’re talking about replacing it in eight or nine years, rather than the expected 10, we’ll take that as proof that the Regional Sports Stadium is continuing to provide a great return on its original investment.

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