CHENEY, Wash. -- On Monday (June 14), ceremonial shovels will be replaced with bulldozers, backhoes, loaders and dump trucks.
The official start of Eastern Washington University’s Red Turf project began under sensational blue skies Saturday (June 12) with a “turfbreaking” ceremony at Woodward Field on the EWU campus in Cheney, Wash.
Former Eagle and current Tennessee Titans star Michael Roos, who along with his wife Katherine Roos kick-started the project with a $500,000 pledge, helped uncover the first mounds of sod from the nearly 40-year-old stadium. He was joined by Eastern President Dr. Rodolfo Arevalo and EWU Foundation Board Vice Chair Rob Neilson.
Several EWU administrators, contractors, contributors and fans were on also on hand for the ceremonial uncovering of sod. Sprintfurf Inc., based in Wayne, Pa., received the contract to install the first red turf, which is the first of its kind, not just in NCAA Division I football, but in the entire country.
The excavation and prep work will be performed by Pauletto Trucking and Excavation in Spokane, which was also a sub-contractor for the Sprinturf field that was installed in 2005 at Gonzaga Prep High School in Spokane.
Stephen Pauletto said his company will remove 18 inches of sod and dirt before beginning the prep work, which includes a sophisticated drainage system and 12 inches of granular sand with a coating of gravel. He said that process, including highly-technical laser leveling, will take about eight weeks prior to the installation of the actual turf.
The projected completion date is Sept. 3, with the inaugural game on the red turf taking place Sept. 18 versus Montana, with kickoff scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Pacific time.
A 24-hour web cam is expected to be available for viewing starting Tuesday (June 15), with a link provided at www.goeags.com. Other contractors involved in the project include Coffman Engineers and Geo Engineers, both based in Spokane, with financing of the project provided by U.S. Bank and approved by the EWU Foundation and EWU Board of Trustees.
More than $1 million has been pledged toward the project, EWU Vice President for University Advancement Mike Westfall said at the “turfbreaking.” Besides Michael and Katherine Roos, other major contributors to the project include a trio of former Eastern students -- Colin Cowherd (now an ESPN national radio/TV broadcaster), Tim Bradbury (a President for American City Business Journals and former EWU football player) and Jim McElwain (now offensive coordinator at Alabama and a former EWU football player and assistant coach) -- as well as the Rockwood Clinic.
In addition, Eastern Hall of Famer Dick Zornes, a former EWU football player, assistant coach, head coach and athletic director, spearheaded the “Play it on the Red” fund-raising effort involving former Eastern players. More than 35 former players have made pledges thus far, as well as another 79 individuals and businesses.
The “turfbreaking” ceremony is probably the only chance the Roos family will have to visit Cheney again until after the NFL season, partly due to the fact the bye in EWU’s 2010 schedule (Nov. 6) is the same weekend as the bye in Tennessee’s schedule. They were in the Spokane area this weekend for the first annual Michael Roos Foundation Fish & Chip Tournament June 10-12, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Michael and Katherine Roos are both graduates of Eastern. Michael graduated in 2005 with a double major in finance and economics, and Katherine graduated in 2004 with a degree in urban and regional planning. They now reside in Nashville, Tenn., where Roos earned All-Pro honors for the Titans in 2008. He has started all 80 regular season games as a Titan, plus two playoff games, 21 pre-season games and the 2009 Pro Bowl.
Roos played at Eastern from 2001-04, and ended his Eagle career with 35-straight starts. As a senior in 2004, he earned five different All-America honors and was the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then I-AA) Lineman of the Year. Roos was drafted in the second round (41st pick overall) by Tennessee in the 2005 draft.
Built in 1967, the stadium has had a grass field since its inception. Modern artificial turf provides a safe, fast, low-maintenance surface for football, and is particularly desirous in regions with inclement weather. Eastern will be the sixth of nine universities in the Big Sky Conference to convert to artificial turf, with Sacramento State currently in the process of converting its field. The turf installation will also benefit EWU and the environment through a savings of approximately 300,000 gallons of water per year.