The greens are a little greener. The blues, a little bluer.
The turf at Frank, "Muddy" Waters Stadium received a much-needed upgrade this summer, giving the 2018 Charger football team a new playing surface to compete on when it opens the new season on the night of Saturday, September 1 against Mercyhurst University.
The Pro Grass surface was installed by the Maumee Turf Center, located in nearby Oregon, Ohio. It is the same type of turf used in four of the past six Super Bowl games.
"I like the way it turned out," said Chargers head coach Keith Otterbein. "It's a softer surface, which reduces the chances for concussions. It's better on our guys' legs and keeps them fresher longer."
The previous turf, a Pro Grass surface like this one, had been in place since the 2005 season. Hillsdale's football playing surface has generally followed national trends since the early 1980s. Back then, artificial surface was all the rage, and Hillsdale featured that surface for many years, into the 1990s. As the trend went back towards natural grass, Hillsdale followed, with a surface that was infinitely softer than artificial turf.
The natural grass surface remained in place until the conclusion of the 2004 season. That spring, the first Pro Grass surface was installed. It's a surface that is a hybrid of natural grass and classic artificial turf. It has the soft feel of natural grass, but without the constant watering and upkeep of natural grass.
The old Pro Grass surface lasted 13 seasons, which is right at the limit of its expected shelf life.
"We were always within the safety guidelines for the old turf, but you could tell it was wearing down," Otterbein said. "Guys' legs weren't as fresh, and it was a harder surface than what it had been. Over the course of time, the fibers would wear out from the weather and the sun.
"It's infinitely softer now."
Some other changes to the field will be visible to fans when they come to a game this fall. The north end bleachers have been removed, opening up the end of the field that sits opposite from the scoreboard. While more aesthetically pleasing, it also opens up additional practice space for the team, allowing the offensive and defensive lines to practice in the same space, something that previously wasn't possible with the old, condemned bleachers in place.
"This expands our practice possibilities," Otterbein said. "It's a safer environment for our linemen to practice in."
Work on the new surface began in early June and was finished just before the Fourth of July holiday. The 2018 Charger football team reports on Sunday, August 5.