Work is under way this week on the installation of a new playing surface on the Packers' Ray Nitschke practice field. The work is the first phase of a two-stage project that will see major renovations to both of the team's outdoor practice fields, including Clarke Hinkle Field.
The two fields will undergo extensive foundation and subsurface work, including the installation of top-flight drainage systems, and be topped off with new surfaces - Nitschke featuring FieldTurf, the leading synthetic grass field, and Hinkle featuring a new natural grass surface. The first phase, Nitschke Field, will be completed by the end of August. Hinkle Field's work will begin in September and be completed in time for the 2005 training camp.
"Keeping our football facilities among the best in the National Football League is an ongoing priority of the Packers organization," said Packers Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer John Jones. "The practice field upgrades will enable our team to practice outside in more varied weather conditions. We hope it gives added flexibility to Mike Sherman and the coaching staff.
"Funding the practice field improvements is another way that the organization's financial success off the field contributes to Packers football success on the field."
By utilizing FieldTurf, the same surface in the Don Hutson Center, the Packers' indoor practice facility, the team can continue to use the field later in the season when natural grass fields typically are frozen. Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman prefers the team to practice outside, in the elements, if at all possible to better hone the team for late-season conditions.
An additional benefit of FieldTurf's durability will be the ability to use Nitschke Field for other Packers-related football events, such as coaching clinics and youth football initiatives. A Hinkle Field highlight will be the new drainage system, which will go a long way toward limiting the number of times the team cannot use the field due to wet conditions.
"We look forward to having more football activities take place on Nitschke Field," said Jones. "Our youth football programs will get a big boost, being able to play on the same field the Packers use. We're also excited about the work on Hinkle Field, which, in addition to helping the football team, will cut down on the number of times fans miss practice during mini-camps and training camp because the club had to move indoors."
The project, at a cost of $3 million, is being overseen by D.A. Hogan and Associates, a Seattle-based engineering and landscape architecture firm that specializes in athletic field design. The group has designed and overseen the installation of more than 100 synthetic turf fields and 200 natural turf fields, including Seahawks Stadium and the team's practice fields, as well as Safeco Field, home of Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners.
The Nitschke Field project begins with initial demolition work, which includes removing unsuitable soil and organic materials and clearing the site. The area is then graded to flatten the surface. A watering system, to cool the field during hot temperatures, is then installed. A compacted sub-grade of pea gravel featuring drainage trenches with a perforated pipe every 15 feet follows. On top of that level are layers constructed with permeable materials to encourage drainage - structural fabric material, eight inches of crushed stone, two inches of porous asphalt paving and, finally, the FieldTurf system itself.
The field, which will have permanent lines and markings identical to what is painted on Lambeau Field on a game day, will be ready for use by the end of August, coinciding with the team's conclusion of training camp and regular move from Hinkle Field to begin preparations for the regular season.
Once the team moves to Nitschke Field, the Hinkle Field phase of the project can begin. That phase will see it converted to a state-of-the-art sand-based natural turf field that will include some peat and soil additives. Similar to Nitschke Field, the initial work will involve excavation, re-grading the soil and removing less-desirable soil. Following separation fabric, the next layer is constructed of four inches of fine pea gravel and will include a new automated irrigation system. The final two layers: 10 inches of root-zone sand, followed by a surface of specially grown sod.
Additional improvements to both fields include perimeter work, including new fencing and sidewalk pavement.
ValleyCrest, of Calabasas, Calif., is the contractor on the first phase of the project. The group has done work at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver.
Local sub-contractors include Fortress Fence, VDH Electric, Martell Construction, Northeast Asphalt, Rainmaster Irrigation and Peters Concrete. Caterpillar equipment from Green Bay's FABCO Equipment also is being used.
A contractor has yet to be selected for the second phase.