St. Thomas will replace grass with artificial turf on the entire South Field this summer to provide an improved and more durable surface for the university’s soccer and softball teams as well as students who use the field for recreational purposes.

The $2 million project on the northwest corner of Cretin and Goodrich avenues will begin in mid-May after the softball season ends and will conclude by Aug. 1 before players on the men’s and women’s soccer teams arrive for preseason practices. The field also will be in high demand for general student use.

Donors have made cash gifts and pledges as part of the Opening Doors capital campaign to cover the entire cost of the project, said athletics director Steve Fritz.

“This is another great example of where alumni and friends have stepped up with contributions to improve the quality of our facilities,” Fritz said. “We also saw this when we installed artificial turf on Palmer Field in O’Shaughnessy Stadium (2004) and the baseball infield on Koch Diamond (2005). The improvements allowed far greater use of those surfaces because of the time needed to maintain grass as a playable surface.”

The layout of the South Field will not change. The soccer field will continue to occupy the western two thirds of the site and run north-south, and the softball field will be in the northeastern third. New bleachers for soccer fans will be installed on the west side at midfield, just east of Binz Refectory. No lights will be installed for the field.

The project essentially will involve scraping off 14 inches of grass and soil and replacing them with aggregate materials topped by artificial turf.

St. Thomas will prepare and review a construction management plan with the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee, as it has on construction projects over the past decade. The plan will address issues such as dust mitigation and construction truck traffic.

“This is another testament to the university’s commitment to provide a first-class student-athlete experience,” said men’s soccer coach Jon Lowery. “It will prove to be invaluable in the development and recruitment of our current and future student athletes.”

Tommie women’s head coach Sheila McGill added, “The women’s soccer team is extremely excited to have this project underway. It will improve our field condition and consistency throughout the season, and provide an exciting game day environment.”

Softball coach John Tschida sees savings in time and money and calls it a safer surface for sliding and infield practice. He also said it will spruce up the South Campus, providing “a more vibrant feel and giving it a splash of color and school spirit.”

“There are many benefits,” Tschida said. “We’ll save 90 minutes of field maintenance each day that our team has been responsible for, as well as the hours our field maintenance staff spends cutting the grass and lining it for games and practices. In our sport, it gives us a better chance of playing in inclement weather, and there will be less dirt and dust blowing around campus and the neighborhood on windy days.”

South Field artificial turf site plan: Cretin Avenue is on the east (right) side, Goodrich Avenue on the south (bottom). McCarthy Gym and the Anderson Parking Facility are on the north (top) side. (Click to enlarge.)