(Edmonton) The Eskimos will take to the field this season with something new underfoot. Edmonton City Council today unanimously approved the installation of field turf at Commonwealth Stadium, replacing the natural grass that’s been in place since the facility opened in 1978.
Appearing before council, Eskimo President and CEO Rick LeLacheur extolled the virtues of a new surface which will bring a consistent playability in all weather conditions, significantly reduced maintenance costs and would create new opportunities for the stadium to host concerts and other events. The Esks will now use Commonwealth as their primary practice facility which will free up Clarke Stadium for amateur sports and community groups.
The 2.6 million dollar tab for the project will be split between the City of Edmonton and the Esks. Work will begin immediately with an expected completion date of mid-to-late May. A new era of the Eskimo Empire will take to the new turf for the first time Sunday, June 13th in a pre-season game against Calgary.
Like the fans, Eskimo players see both pros and cons with putting artificial turf in the stadium. Esks.com caught up with a few of them to get their take on playing field turf vs. natural grass.
Jason Goss: “I do like grass because that’s what I’ve been playing on my whole life, but it does get slippery. I like the idea of field turf because now the field won’t be so messed up when other events are going on there.”
Calvin McCarty: “Clarke is turf, the new indoor facility will be turf, so it’s only right we play on turf. I like the grass, but we should play on turf. We gotta change it up!”
Arkee Whitlock: “I personally grew up on grass and I think I was used to our advantage when opposing teams couldn’t adjust to it. But having said that I’m also had success on field turf so I’m cool with whatever the decision is.”
Noel Prefontaine: “Grass surfaces don’t react very well to bad weather. We had some games last year where the footing wasn’t the greatest. The field turf should solve those issues. In regards to having an advantage over the last couple seasons, I don’t think we did. Especially not last year. With the removal of our grass practice field, teams were coming into Commonwealth with more grass time than we had during the week. If anything, this decision for the new field helps us out.”
Ricky Ray: “I like playing on grass because I grew up playing on grass. Also in Edmonton it was always an extra advantage we had over visiting teams, but since we do not have a grass practice field anymore I think that little edge is no longer there for us. However the new field turf these days is very good to play on and with Edmonton hosting the Grey Cup this year the field conditions will be much better on the new turf than the natural grass. In the 2002 Grey Cup in Edmonton the field conditions were very bad and it limited what the players could do on the field. The new field turf will definitely make it easier for players to use all of their abilities especially late in the year when the weather is bad.”