By JACOB WOERTHER
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Missouri Gov. Eric Grietens’ recent budget cuts triggered a series of cutbacks across Missouri education, but the replacement of Vernon Kennedy Field, home of Mules football, will not be impacted.
The turf replacement of Kennedy Field and resurfacing the track in Audrey J. Walton Stadium were put on hold after the state funding was cut during the fiscal year. Jerry Hughes, director of UCM Athletics, announced he was seeking donor support for the turf replacement during a Board of Governors meeting in February.
Hughes said the university has been in contact with a potential donor in recent weeks and hopes to finalize the replacement plans shortly.
Although the field replacement has been delayed, Hughes said he is confident the field will be finished by the start of the 2017 football season.
“The turf will only take about three weeks max,” Hughes said. “It’s not a long process.”
Hughes said although a typical turf field has a life expectancy of eight to 10 years, the 12-year-old turf on Kennedy Field is still in great condition.
“It could realistically go another two to three years,” Hughes said. “But it’s starting to wear down a little. We’re starting to get some separation in the seams where the pieces of carpet go together.”
While the project is expected to cost the university and its donor between $800,000 and $900,000, Hughes said electing to use turf over grass will save the university money in the long run.
“(The turf field costs) less than $90,000 per year,” Hughes said. “You would typically spend that on grass seed, fertilizer and all the stuff you would have to do a grass field. There were a lot of years when we would spend more than $100,000 per year on the maintenance of (a grass field), so (turf fields) are well worth their money.”
Hughes said Kennedy Field is not simply an essential asset to the university for Mules football, but is also a gathering place for the entire community. Fraternities and Sororities use the field for intermural sports, Warrensburg High School plays football on it and the stadium is left open on the weekend so members of the community can use it as well.
“I consider it a university asset and somewhere that people can go to recreate and have a good time.”