Instead of installing artificial turf in its football stadium, North Carolina will continue to use real grass and replace it with sod as needed, said Mike Bunting, associate athletic director of facility planning and management.
The discussion to install artificial turf began after plans were secured to build an indoor practice football facility in place of the current outdoor one on Navy Field. Construction of the practice facility will force the UNC football team to practice in Kenan Stadium for 15 months, Bunting said.
UNC officials decided after several months of discussion to continue using real grass, a decision confirmed in meetings as recent as Nov. 18.
“Given that it’s economically a sound decision, and it’s our football program’s preference to stay on grass, it was an easy decision,” Bunting said.
The group of UNC athletic officials who made the decision included Bunting, football coach Larry Fedora, head athletic trainer for football Kenny Boyd and athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
Kenan Stadium will be used for practice during the week and for home games starting in August 2017, causing concern about whether the field would wear out from overuse. Bunting and others in the athletic facilities department explored options to ensure the surface would be safe for student-athletes.
“We started thinking about every possible scenario,” Bunting said. “What if it rains like crazy Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday? What do we need to do to re-sod and paint the field for the game on Saturday? We couldn’t find a scenario where we’d have to practice or play on a surface that was unsafe.”
The field will undergo a type of re-sodding to make the grass safe for play immediately after installation. Bunting said potential safety concerns of playing on turf factored into the decision — including injury risk during severe rain.