This story was written by Jim Lichtenwalter and originally appeared on uga.edu.
Near the back of the intramural fields complex on Lake Herrick Drive, there is a full-sized football field. Covered with a brand new synthetic field turf and even adorned with the University of Georgia’s iconic “super G,” this field will never hear the crunch of pads colliding or shrill cry of a coach’s whistle. Cleats will never dig into its surface, and plays will never be perfected across its yard lines.
Instead, a completely different kind of practice takes place on this field. With musical instruments in place of helmets and footballs, some 440 students take the field three nights a week to perfect their formations, movement and timing.
Since 2009, UGA’s Redcoat Marching Band has called this field its home. The field is an exact replica of a football field: 120 yards long-including end zones-and 55 yards across.
Before this, the band rehearsed at Woodruff Field, the same place where the football team practices, which caused scheduling conflicts.
This past summer, the university made upgrades to the field, namely replacing the grass with the synthetic field turf.
“Practice has been 100 percent better on the turf,” Paige Healey, a Redcoat drum major from Dahlonega, said. “It’s been such a blessing.”
Last year, the field would flood whenever it rained. This led to practice in the mud and ultimately missed rehearsals. The field’s drainage wasn’t working, and the band was slowly tearing up the field the more they practiced during rainy weather.
Michael Robinson, an associate professor of music and the director of athletic bands, appealed to UGA President Jere W. Morehead and the administration at UGA’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music and Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Morehead asked Facilities Management to determine the best option for repairing the field. With funds from the President’s Office and assistance from the School of Music, the Redcoats were able to fully fund the preferred option-synthetic field turf.
Other schools similar to UGA, such as the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Georgia Tech and Florida State University, all have similar fields to accommodate marching bands.
“The new field makes a huge difference,” Healey said. “It helps us with aligning our positions. Our show looks much better now.”
“For the president to step up, it’s honestly huge,” said Robinson. “He responded to the fact that the students were not getting the proper UGA experience.”
Site preparation for the new turf began in April, and installation was finished in time for band camp in August. So far, it has proved to be a great investment.
“The field is absolutely gorgeous,” Robinson said. “We’ve already had rehearsals after rainy days that if they had happened last year, we had to cancel. It’s already showed benefits for us.”
The new turf is just the beginning of the Redcoat Band’s improvements to the field. Currently, there is a fundraising campaign for a permanent teaching tower, from which Robinson can teach, view practices and see the entire formation.