Issue of grass surface at Lane Stadium being resolved
By Jimmy Robertson
October 29, 2002

After seeing Lee Suggs, Kevin Jones and Bryan Randall all slip while trying to make cuts in the Temple game, and seeing Anthony Davis injure himself while slipping, officials from the Virginia Tech athletics department met with two consultants concerning the grass surface at Lane Stadium. And they think they have found the problem and have come up with a plan that hopefully will prevent slipping during the games.

"Just below the surface, we've got a very thick layer of thatch, and even though we've got the vacuum system underneath the field to pull the water out, the layer is so thick that the water on the surface never seems to drain as good as we'd like it to drain," said Tom Gabbard, Tech's associate AD for internal affairs. "So we've got some slipping situations."

Gabbard said they plan to make two moves to improve the field before Tech's game with Pittsburgh on Saturday night. First, they plan on cutting the grass shorter. Tech plays on a bermuda grass surface that is over-seeded with rye grass each year. When the bermuda goes dormant - as it does in this part of the country this time of year - the rye grass actually flourishes, giving the field its green color.

"We're going to take it from its existing height of about 7/8ths of an inch to about 1/2 inch," Gabbard said. "That will take whatever slipping is being caused by the rye grass over-seeding out of the equation because of the shortness of the field.

"Rye flourishes in this weather. What we're getting is a little more rye grass on the surface, so we're going to cut it shorter. The field may not be as green, but it doesn't matter as long as we have a nice, tight playing surface."

Finally, they plan on aerating the field, similar to what occurs on a golf course.

"We'll either do is slice it [the thatch] or punch it, probably punch it with a small-tine aeroficator," Gabbard said. "Those holes combined with the shortness of the field combined with the vacuum system should enable us to see an improvement."

The athletics department plans on making more changes after the season. Gabbard said a heating system will be installed in December or January, allowing them to heat the bermuda grass roots, thus keeping it alive longer.

"The field hasn't been bad, but being drier will help the footing," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "I really like this field, and as we make improvements, it's only going to get better and better."