Eastern Washington University prepares for a red synthetic turf.
Boise State University first installed blue synthetic turf in its football stadium in 1986 as a means to draw nationwide attention to the mid-major school and its sizable investment. "It's not grass, and people know it's not grass," BSU athletic director Gene Bleymeier said at the time. "So it doesn't have to be green."
Barrow (Alaska) High School, Lovington (N.M.) High School and Valley View High in Hidalgo, Texas, have since made the move to blue, and the University of New Haven celebrated the return of football to its campus last season by rolling out a blue carpet.
Now, Eastern Washington University is expanding the polyethylene palette even further with the announcement in late January that it intends to replace Woodward Field's natural grass with red synthetic turf - the first field of that hue in the world. "We want a superior surface, number one," says EWU athletic director Bill Chaves. "And while we're at it, why not red? Why not Eastern?"
Former EWU football player Michael Roos of the Tennessee Titans has pledged $500,000 toward the project, which will be completed in time for the 2010 season. Specifying red pigment for turf fibers amounts to a mere $10,000 of the field's final price tag, according to Chaves, who adds, "It will be as close to our uniform color as we can get."
Chaves reports that the decision has been overwhelmingly popular among EWU's 25-and-under set, while purists, particularly elders who blanch at the thought of football played on anything but grass, have been the lone detractors. As for those who will actually be canvassing the surface, the prevailing attitude, again, is, "Why not?" "They think it's great. They think it's unique. They think, 'Why not be on something that you just don't see every day?'" Chaves says. "The recruits we're talking to and our team members can't be any more excited about it."