UCA football field sports a new look

Work is nearing completion on the new purple and gray artificial turf at Estes Stadium at the University of Central Arkansas.

UCA began in mid-April to replace its natural grass football field with a GeoGreen replicated grass surface from GeoSurfaces – the same company which installed the turf last fall at the school’s baseball stadium.

But unlike the baseball – and most – turf, the surface of First Security Field at Estes Stadium will not contain even a trace of green. Instead the school has opted for a unique design incorporating the Central Arkansas school colors of purple and gray, with black and white accents.

In contrast from solid-colored surfaces such as the famed blue turf of Boise State, the playing surface at Central Arkansas features purple and gray alternating in five-yard sections from the goal lines out to the 45-yard lines. Between the 45s there is a 10-yard gray segment with the logo – which spans 20 yards – centered at midfield. The end zones are black with “Bears” in white lettering with secondary bear paw logos on either side, giving it an appearance unrivaled anywhere in college football.

“The decision to install synthetic turf was one that came quickly,” said Dr. Brad Teague, director of athletics. “We decided to use that opportunity to do something unique. We didn’t want to copy Boise State or Eastern Washington, so we developed our own color scheme. This scheme was vetted out to our many constituent groups and the vast majority of those groups chose this non-traditional color scheme for our turf. Our student-athletes are the most excited about this look, but our donor base was also very positive about the design.”

Clint Conque, entering his 12th season as head coach, sees numerous advantages for the UCA program with the installation of the turf.

“First and foremost, it’s very functional and gives us a consistent surface for practice every day as well as on game day,” said Conque, the winningest coach in school history. “Certainly for our fans it brings some uniqueness and really rings of school spirit with the purple and gray and the touch of black in the end zones. I think overall everybody’s excited.”

Recruits and current players are equally as enthusiastic about the new surface, which will be ready well ahead of the 2011 season that begins at home on at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, against Henderson State University.

“They showed us the final draft of the turf and we’re really excited,” said senior offensive lineman Matt Dickerson of Monroe, La. “I was shocked at first, I was thinking it was going to just be something more normal. The black end zones and purple and gray alternating was surprising, but I like it. It’s something different and shows we’re not trying to be just an everyday school. We’re trying to do something different, trying to do bigger and better things here. We’re trying to grow and take this organization to the next level and I think this is one step toward that.”

The unique turf is a result of a thorough process by the athletic department, developing a number of options – both with green and school-colored options – and seeking a variety of opinions throughout the community in order to come up with the cutting-edge playing surface.

“I have been impressed with the extensive input that the athletic department sought in coming up with the final decision,” said Dr. Allen C. Meadors, University of Central Arkansas president. “It is important to understand that the field is another recruiting tool just like uniforms, weight rooms, win/loss records, coaches and our current players. Initial research indicates that this color mix will be a positive in the recruiting process.”

The turf, along with the GeoFlo drainage blanket system, will eliminate costs associated with the upkeep of a natural surface. Officials, including a campus cost-containment committee, estimate savings of approximately $100,000 per year.

It also serves as the latest in a number of improvements surrounding the UCA football program, with a new strength and conditioning complex and luxury suites all scheduled to be in place before the start of the 2012 season.

“The stars and moons are aligning for us,” Conque said. “We’ve been competitive in facilities but there are some areas where we’re behind. The state-of-the-art strength and conditioning complex will give us a huge recruiting advantage. The skyboxes – there are only two or three other schools in the conference that may have them so that puts us on par there. Then with the unique turf, there are a lot of positives.

"It’s a great time to be in our program. If we continue to have success on the field – which I’m very hopeful of that – along with the facilities we’ve got a chance to take this to a higher level.”