Turf move right call for Richardson

The Journal’s Sports Editor argues the switch to artifical surfaces will keep Queen’s close to OUA trends

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Miklas-McCarney Field was the second of three Queen’s turf fields when it was built in 2011. The new Richardson Stadium will be the fourth turf field when it’s built.
Miklas-McCarney Field was the second of three Queen’s turf fields when it was built in 2011. The new Richardson Stadium will be the fourth turf field when it’s built.

When the new Richardson Stadium opens in the fall of 2016, more than just its structure will change.

The Gaels have hosted games on natural grass for the football program’s entire history, but the revitalization project means Queen’s will become the final OUA school to make the shift to artificial turf.

Purists may be against the idea of playing on an artificial surface, but the benefits of making the move outweigh the possible negatives. It plays into the favour of Athletics and Recreation, as well as the athletes who will be playing in the new stadium.

Installing an artificial turf field is a cost-effective route for a university athletic department to take. Instead of having to maintain a grass surface, which can easily be damaged by overuse or the weather, schools can allocate finances to other areas of concern.

The other 10 OUA schools that support football — and all nine teams in the Canadian Football League — play in stadiums with artificial turf, as part of an overall shift towards the playing surface.

In Queen’s case, several varsity teams have recently moved to turf. Nixon Field, Tindall Field and Miklas-McCarney Field were all built with artificial playing surfaces or made the shift from grass to FieldTurf in the last seven years.

When Kingston Field was redeveloped into Nixon Field, it was originally intended to remain a natural grass field. That changed when the International Rugby Board gave their okay for rugby matches to take place on turf.

It’s also part of the reason why OUA and CIS schools are making the shift, helped out by the financial benefits that come from it.

With the possibility of increased use, Queen’s would be able to make money off their turf fields that they couldn’t with grass. Athletics can enter rental agreements, similar to the deal they have with Kingston FC of the Canadian Soccer League.

One concern of switching to turf is that the shift would be hazardous to player safety. This issue was brought forth by American female soccer players during the lead-up to this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is being held in Canada.

As a less forgiving playing surface, injuries are slightly more prevalent on artificial turf. That said, modern turf fields are far different from ones installed in the 1960s, which were responsible for severe injuries.

The risk for injury still remains, but it exists regardless of the field of play. Every Gaels soccer game is played on turf, as are the football team’s four regular season road games.

The only negative impact the Gaels will face is losing the shock factor of playing football on natural grass. After teams have become accustomed to playing on turf fields, the difference felt going back to playing on grass can be a home-field advantage.

Despite losing that element of play, the decision to go to turf when the new Richardson is built is in line with what the rest of the league is doing. It’s the move that makes the most sense.

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