Engelmann Turf Project Giving Panther Soccer Big Upgrade
Aug. 13, 2010
MILWAUKEE - As the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's and women's soccer teams report for preseason practice, dreams of a new playing surface at Engelmann Field are nearly a reality.
In fact, renovations are now underway to install a synthetic playing surface at Engelmann, home of the Panther soccer teams.
The project started this summer and appears likely to roll into September, meaning some early-season matches will be moved off-campus. But, sacrificing a few matches home matches now is a small price to pay in order to have one of the finest playing surfaces in the country when the renovations are complete.
The project, funded largely through donations in a three-year campaign spearheaded by women's coach Michael Moynihan, will also include other upgrades and improvements. Plus, the turf itself will give the Panthers a FIFA Two-Star Field, with the new Polytan playing surface the first of its kind in North America.
"We're going to have one of the top synthetic fields in the world and it's a complicated process," Moynihan said. "Everyone involved wants to make sure it is done right. They are revisiting a few things and that has delayed the project a little bit. In the end, the quality of the product is going to be worth the wait."
In all, five regular season soccer matches are scheduled to be moved. The women's team will be involved in four of those, including a pair of matches in the Milwaukee Cup. Those contests - Aug. 27 against New Mexico and Aug. 29 vs. Auburn - will now be played at Marquette's Valley Field. The New Mexico match will kickoff at 5 p.m. while the contest with Auburn starts at 11 a.m.
Two other women's matches will also be moved to other locations, with the Sept. 5 contest against Michigan State slated for noon at Shorewood High School and the Sept. 12 showdown with Wisconsin set to played in Madison at 1 p.m.
Plus, the debut of new men's soccer coach Chris Whalley will now come at Marquette's Valley Field, as the Panthers battle with the Golden Eagles Sept. 1 will move there.
"Obviously not playing at Engelmann Field is a bit disappointing, but we are still playing in the city of Milwaukee, so that is not a massive issue and I don't look at it as a true away game," Whalley said. "More importantly, I think the longevity of the field and making sure that we have a quality playing surface - not just for the Milwaukee Cup this year, but for the Milwaukee Cup for years to come - is more important. I am just looking forward to having one of the best - if not the best - playing surfaces in the state and Midwest."
Once the renovations are complete, the Milwaukee soccer programs will benefit from the field well beyond match-days, as they will gain full-time training ground (both teams typically train off campus) and a playing surface that will sustain two teams in all weather conditions throughout the season.
"We are really restricted as far as space. We really haven't had a practice facility since I've been here and the men have been in the same situation," Moynihan said. "Both teams have been moving around and finding different solutions, which all involve travel off-campus. This is detrimental to the student-athletes as far as class time. With this field, we'll be able to train on-campus and give our players more flexibility in their class scheduling, as well as give them a place to work on things outside of practice. We'll have access in the spring, as soon as the snow melts, and that will be a huge advantage."
Whalley is also excited about the field project and the great advantages it will give his program.
"Having the opportunity to practice each day on our own surface, on our own campus, in the setting where we are going to be playing our games - which is such a unique and special setting in college soccer - is fantastic," Whalley said. "In terms of being able to do individual training, extra work with individuals and small groups, it's going to be ideal to have this facility. It will be one of the best in the state and really in the country. A FIFA Two-Star field is just a fantastic resource for the program and a great recruiting tool."
The field will now also be available for other campus and community without great concerns over wear and tear. Both teams will be afforded the opportunity to host extensive youth camps with more frequency, while hosting high school tournaments and groups without suitable spaces to play.
"This will allow us to have more community outreach," Moynihan said. "We've had to cancel high school tournaments on the field in the past because of the effect it would have on the surface. Now, we will be able to expand on those relationships with the community."
Polytan is the world leader in synthetic soccer fields and has installed 46 current FIFA two-star rated fields in the world. FIFA final-round competitions, Champions League matches and UEFA Cup matches can only be played on two-star fields. Currently, there are just five such fields in the CONCACAF region (North and Central America and the Caribbean).
"When we were looking at fields, trying to figure out what we wanted, there was a lot of apprehension," Moynihan said. "We're taking what is known to be one of the best grass fields in the state and uprooting it and taking out. The current grass field was well past the end of its life cycle and needed to be replaced regardless. Installing the Polytan field addresses this need and also our need for a training facility. It will be a shining star that will do justice to the storied histories of both of our soccer programs."
"(Polytan) has the most FIFA two-star fields in the world. This will be a FIFA two-star field. There are some of these fields in Europe that are used for Champions League matches and other elite-level club matches. This will be the first of its kind in North America. When it is complete, UWM will have one of the best synthetic fields in the world."
"The extent that Coach Moynihan went through to make sure that we have one of the finest fields in the nation puts us in fantastic position day-in and day-out," Whalley said. "We won't have to travel to the local community high school fields and so forth to practice. It's just a great advantage for us."
Colt Construction is installing the surface that is superior to typical artificial turf. The process includes constructing an EnergyPad layer, similar a running track, then applying the infill and grass-like fiber on top. The benefits of the process make the playing surface more level and consistent, with reduced maintenance and the maintenance of safety standards over the life of the field.
One difference people will notice immediately is the different infill. Most synthetic surfaces used ground-up, black rubber tires (SBR) for the infill. The infill on this field will be green in color and "green" environmentally, as well. It is 100 percent recyclable and it does not have any heavy metals, contaminants or the odor that comes with the rubber tire infill systems. It is also a cooler system, since the material does not absorb as much heat.
Engelmann Field has been the home of Panther soccer since the 1970's, and soccer supporters have been stepping forward to help with improvements to what is considered one of the best college soccer environments in the country. A fundraising campaign helped add lights to the facility prior to the 2006 season, with these most-recent donations helping to complete the first major work on the playing surface in 10 years.
A formal dedication ceremony for the upgraded field will take place once the project is completed later this fall.
MORE ON TWO-STAR RATING (From FIFA.com)