Entire UT Community Would Benefit From FieldTurf

Everyone knows it rains almost daily in Tampa, but few feel the effects as heavily as Charles Yezak, the director of intramural sports

In his eighth year, Yezak is experiencing the worst weather since coming to UT in 2000.

“We’ve had five rainouts this year,” said Yezak. “One year, there were three. This is the most.”

Roughly 500 students participate in each intramural sport. Add in varsity athletic practices, ROTC training, exercise science classes, student club use, and rental events, and the intramural field experiences a lot of wear and tear.

This is part of the reason why Yezak is petitioning the university for an artificial playing surface.

“Right now we have use of only one field for intramural sports,” he said. “The field needs time to rest, too. If the field becomes unsafe for one event, it becomes unsafe for all events.”

An artificial surface would provide three major improvements. First, rain would not cancel games, as it only takes 20-30 minutes to drain fully. Second, artificial fields ensure a safe, consistent playing surface. Finally, turf doesn’t feel the effects of wear and tear.

“FieldTurf has an average life of 8-12 years,” said Yezak. FieldTurf is the highest rated of 12 major artificial surface brands.

Yezak recently attended a conference at the University of Central Florida which currently has three new FieldTurf facilities.

Installing a new field would cost $1-2 million, according to figures from UCF. This cost would be shared by student organizations, the athletic department, ROTC and exercise science programs. Yezak has also proposed the idea of a campus recreation fee.

“I think what we have to look at is our student population,” said Yezak. “Students are our primary customers at UT. We have to look at how many students, in all of our programs, use our fields. Right now we have only one field available for all of them.”

Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Storm, an Arena Football League team, held practice on the intramural field, tearing up the grass. With a high level of management and some well-timed rain, the field was playable in a few days.

In January, the athletic department will temporarily lose the use of Pepin Stadium, as the field will undergo a major renovation. New grass will be planted, landscaping will be upgraded, and the field will be leveled.

Additionally, the upgraded baseball field is off-limits to intramural and student use. The soccer field is officially off-limits to student use, with the exception of the south end behind the goal.

“Officially, students cannot use Pepin Stadium at any time,” said Yezak. “There used to be signs, but they got stolen.”

There are opportunities for the University to grab land around campus. Yezak noted that the school is looking to purchase new land southwest of campus across Boulevard, on this side of the train tracks. He submitted his request, which requires a 120-yard long field.

“A lot of schools our size have 2, 3, 4 or 5 fields,” said Yezak. “We have one. We should afford students the opportunities. The limiting factor right now is the space. My job is to ensure that we have the fields for the services we offer.”

Campus recreation is in dire need of this new space. There are 12 team sports in intramurals this year, an increase of 50% from last year. They put on a total of 600 program hours.

Yezak has added ultimate Frisbee and dodgeball this year, two sports that students have requested in large numbers.

With the increase in student population and a nation-wide push toward healthier student bodies, students are requesting more and more use of green space. In an urban campus, it’s often hard to find the room to fulfill the needs of the population.

With such a large portion of the campus involved, Yezak is pushing for upgraded facilities to satisfy the population.

“We say we’re a residential campus, but at times there is no place to go throw a baseball or a football,” he said. “I’d love to leave the lights on the field until 1 a.m. Students need a place to go burn off the energy of the day. With a new field, I could do that.”

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