New field surface holds up well despite rain

Ronnie Haliburton, director of athletic facilities and grounds, might have had the game of his life on Saturday when No. 14 LSU hosted Fresno State in rain drenched Tiger Stadium.

Haliburton didn't play against the Bulldogs late Saturday night, but the former LSU tight end did manage the playing surface that received almost four inches of rain before kickoff. The field was noticeably in great condition before and after the Tigers 38-6 romp over Fresno St., and all the credit goes to Haliburton and his crew that worked hard over the summer installing the new turf. 


"I want to give some credit to our field crew," head coach Les Miles said. "Our field is in really good shape. As much rain as came down, the footing was crisp, you could run and catch…I cant tell you how well that field held up."


Tiger Stadium received a new playing surface earlier this summer, and until Saturday it had only received a few tests.


Field management and crews repaired the entire playing surface in Tiger Stadium by uprooting and laying down new turf at the cost of $147,000. The new grass surface is 90 percent sand, 10 percent organic mix and is approximately 10 inches deep to withstand poor weather conditions.


"Over the last couple of years, it was getting very difficult for us to maintain a proper playing field," Haliburton said. "Todd [Jeansonne] and his staff helped us with an enormous amount of time getting it just to a level where we can compete."


In 2005, Tiger Stadium hosted six LSU games, four Saints games and a contest between Tulane University and Southeastern Louisiana University. The extra events added stress to the playing surface and torrential downpours made the situation worse.


In response, the level of the field was altered to improve drainage. The field can now drain twice as much water as it previously did.


"It doesn't cut down on any of our maintenance, what it does is it allows us to play a football game under nastier conditions," Facilities Manager Todd Jeansonne said. "It will save the field from becoming totally destroyed and sloppy where you lose the field for the rest of the year. What this should do is if we get an Oregon State rain, it should be playable within 30 minutes."


Haliburton said after Saturday's game that he thought the field held up very well and that it looked good after four quarters of play. He said a rain like Saturday would have been playable last year, but the field would have looked like slop. The divots he saw would be expected after the amount of moisture the field collected, and Haliburton said the field performed like it should.


Players also said the field help up well, especially receivers. Senior receiver Craig "Buster" Davis said the field played a little slower, but you could still do all the normal things like cutting and stopping.


"We had to change the way we ran and slow down," senior receiver Craig "Buster" Davis said. "We had to keep ourselves under control more than we usually do… You couldn't ask for better."


The fields first test came when LSU hosted the 69th Louisiana High School Coaches Association/Coca-Cola All-Star Football Game in Tiger Stadium over the summer where over 100 athletes played on Death Valley's new surface. Haliburton said he thought it was a good test, but that the field still had a long ways to go.


Haliburton said the field held up like expected and still went through the normal procedures of a football game. There were no divots in the playing surface and even the band performed before and during half-time.


"When you build a sand castle, you can't build it with dry sand," Haliburton said. "So we watered the surface before the game so the sand would stick together and make a stronger, more durable grass surface."


The only problem Haliburton said was that seams were visible on the playing surface and had not yet grown in. When field crews rolled out the new surface, it left seams and gaps between each roll of grass. Those seams were both visible and could be felt when running across its surface.


Haliburton was attracted to the special engineered MS Choice Grass - developed by Mississippi State - because it is so aggressive. When divots do occur in the surface, the grass will replenish itself.


"We chose this grass because of how aggressive it is," Haliburton said. "It is self-repairing, which is what you want your grass to do.


For Saturday's contest, no seams were visible and the playing surface lived up to its credentials. The Tigers traditionally do not play well in poor weather conditions, but that tradition was broken because of the new surface.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories