Hampton University will install synthetic turf at Armstrong Stadium later this spring and the field will be ready well in advance of the 2014 football season.
"A huge deal," HU coach Connell Maynor said. He said a new, state-of-the-art turf field is a recruiting tool and will allow the team to practice outside in bad weather.
Poor conditions forced the Pirates indoors on several occasions last season, because both Armstrong Stadium and the practice field behind the stadium have natural grass surfaces.
"You can't expect a football team to go out and win a football game, not practicing outside and having to practice inside in the gym," Maynor said. "That's going to be huge for our football program and the direction we're trying to take it, where we won't miss a practice."
Installation will begin after graduation, May 11, and is expected to be complete by the end of June or early July, Maynor said. He said the cost of the project is approximately $800,000, but that the expense will be offset by savings from maintaining a natural grass field.
"You're talking about a turf (field) that's going to last you 10-15 years," he said. "You look at the cost of painting a grass field, seeding, watering, upkeep, maintenance, you're saving a ton of money by going with the turf."
Hampton U. officials selected AstroTurf's 3D Decade product, which comes with a 10-year warranty and is considered one of the industry's best and most durable surfaces. Old Dominion installed similar surfaces at S.B. Ballard Stadium and the football practice fields at the L.R. Hill Complex.
The present field at Armstrong Stadium will be excavated. Base construction and a drainage system will be installed before the artificial surface is laid down.
HU's home opener is Sept. 6 against William and Mary.
Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.