At the moment, the field at Paulson Stadium - usually a lush green pasture - looks better suited to hosting a motocross rally or a monster truck show than a Georgia Southern football game.
Last fall, it was announced that plans were nearing completion to switch from grass to artificial turf. Immediately following the end of the regular season, the first strips of sod were removed. Currently, Glenn Bryant Field is a sea of mud and dirt piles constantly being pushed around by heavy machinery.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Shaw Sports Turf out of Calhoun, Ga., was selected to be the provider for the new artificial surface and that completion of the new field is expected around mid-April, in plenty of time prior to Georgia Southern's 2016 home opener against Savannah State on Sept. 3.
"It was about a year-and-a-half process to come to this decision," GSU director of athletics Tom Kleinlein said. "We sat down and analyzed a lot of companies. For Shaw, it was big that they have knowledge of southeast Georgia and that they have a number of employees from Georgia Southern who understand the culture here."
The specific model for the field will be Shaw's Legion 41 system, which consists of two-inch strands of both silt and monofilament film designed to maximize both durability and aesthetic value. Along with the new "grass" will come a foundation of stone, 320,000 pounds of sand and 230,000 pounds of crumb rubber, which will coat the field and provide cushioning.
Another feature of the new field will be a cooling system.
Synthetic turf can get much hotter than natural grass on blazing summer days, but Shaw will install HydroChill, which is applied to the infill and helps to cool the field through a process similar to how the body sweats to deal with excess heat.
"We don't expect heat to be an issue," Kleinlein said. "This will help with practices in the fall, but our games during the warmer months are night games where the field temperature won't be a factor."
The biggest incentive for switching to an artificial surface is the flexibility it brings.
Since moving the coaches offices, locker room and training facilities to the Ted Smith Family Football Center in 2014, the commute around campus to the practice fields on Fair Road is a logistical hurdle.
"It frees up some issues with man power," Kleinlein said. "It will make things easier on the team when there is bad weather and just the fact that the field remains painted will free up 8-10 man hours in our department."
The new field will provide quicker in-and-out access on days where lightning is in the forecast and provides a safer surface on which to practice when there is heavy rain. Also, it gives the Eagles a bit more consistency as the switch now means that all 11 Sun Belt Conference football stadiums will feature an artificial surface.
Another benefit: A more durable field means more football can be played at Paulson Stadium. For the past four years, high school teams from around the area have played a pair of games in the Erk Russell Classic. Now that the field will be able to stand up to any amount of games, Kleinlein suspects that the event could easily become a two-day affair and feature more teams.
Outside of football, the artificial surface could serve as seating for concerts and other large-scale events.
"Our goal is for Paulson Stadium to be an attraction to the community," Kleinlein said. "This new surface is going to look good and play well for our team, but we want to have the option to make Paulson Stadium about more than six home games per year."
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.