Turf wars hit new stadium
By Alex Chiang
A small battle over turf has begun long before the construction of Western's new stadium on Huron Flats even begins.
Bob Vigars, coach of the Mustang cross-country and the men's track and field teams is unhappy with the idea of using artificial turf in the state-of-the-art facility which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2000.
"I'm not going to file a petition, I just want to point out to the group proposing [to have artificial turf] that it's not a wise decision," Vigars said. "Astroturf is meant for stadiums where they plan on having tractor pulls."
Vigars' main concern is that athletes are more likely to sustain injuries on artificial turf because it is laid out on asphalt rather than dirt.
"[The difference] is playing a pick-up game of basketball at the UCC gym or Thames Hall," he said. "You're far more likely to get hurt at the UCC as opposed to at Thames where the wood court is suspended and is softer."
Vigars pointed to examples in the United States where schools such as the University of Michigan replaced their artificial turf in favour of natural grass. In that instance the stadium was used only for football.
Mustang football head coach Larry Haylor said his players have always enjoyed playing on the artificial surface at University Stadium, the home of the Laurier Golden Hawks and the Waterloo Warriors. In addition, he stated that having astroturf has allowed the two schools to get a number of good recruits because athletes have the benefit of consistent field conditions.
"The decade-old myth against artificial turf has changed and there aren't as many arguments associated with it anymore," Haylor said. "The pros so far outweigh the cons that it's just not a marketable argument with a multipurpose stadium."
Robert Walsh, an athletic therapist at Western's Fowler-Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic said there are new forms of artificial turf which are safe.
"There's nothing in literature that supports the claim that artificial turf causes more injuries," he said.
Women's soccer coach Sheri Kitching-Fowler addressed a concern of whether her team will get enough time to practice on the turf and if given a choice, she would prefer to see a grass field at the new facility.
"I worry about the lack of consistency around the province with different surfaces," she said. "Most of the girls are more comfortable playing on grass because that's the surface they grew up on."
Kitching-Fowler added an alternative option may be for the team to continue playing in J.W. Little Stadium which has a grass field.
In addition to a playing field, the facility will boast an eight-lane international standard track and television-quality lighting for night events. Furthermore it will host many local sports teams and events, on top of Western's football, soccer and field hockey teams.
"The purpose is to have a stadium that can serve a wide variety of groups from both the university and the community," Western chair of athletics Darwin Semotiuk said. "J.W. Little is underused because its surface is not accomodating. If we put grass in the new stadium, it no longer becomes multi-purpose."
The proposal for the $10 million, 12,500 seat stadium which is to be funded through a joint campaign between Western and the London Alliance Host Society for the 2001 Canada Summer Games was passed by the university's Board of Governors in November.