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YSU goes ahead with plan to replace turf

Staff file photo / R. Michael Semple Members of the Youngstown State football team take the field for the 2019 home opener. When the Penguins take the field in the 2020 season it will be on new turf.

YOUNGSTOWN — It was a thrill for Youngstown State University to host the San Francisco 49ers football team last year when the NFL team practiced at the campus prior to a matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 49ers practiced indoors at the WATTS Center, and it wasn’t because the weather was bad. The team wasn’t comfortable practicing on Dike Beede Field at Stambaugh Stadium because the turf was outdated and showing signs of wear and tear.

San Francisco, and any other team that utilizes it, won’t have those worries in the future.

YSU is in the process of replacing the field turf, which was installed in 2011, a process that was slightly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues arising from the coronavirus cost the university millions of dollars, and the administration had to make a decision on the turf.

“This is an event we plan for every eight to 10 years,” executive director of athletics Ron Strollo said. “So, you’re putting money away into a restricted fund to replace (the turf). We felt it was probably time to have it replaced, and the outbreak delayed it in the sense of, ‘Hey, under these circumstances, financially, although we know these dollars need to be used for this purpose, is this the right time for the optics to be replacing this field?’

“We took about a four-to-six-week period where we tried to make the determination that finally we made, which was for the safety of our kids and the other people that utilize the field, it needed replaced.”

The field was coming up on its 10th year of use. Strollo said the warranty expired after the eighth season, and safety hazards were too much of a concern to let it go any longer.

The renovation began last week, and the old turf already has been removed. Strollo estimated the field will be usable in another three to four weeks. The football team, which was given permission by the NCAA to start voluntary workouts earlier this week, will utilize the indoor WATTS Center in the meantime.

Strollo said the project cost around $500,000.

“Money is set aside for a lot of other capital projects on campus, whether it’s roofs or whatever,” he said. “Those dollars are set aside, and they’re set aside for this specific use.”

Stambaugh Stadium has undergone a vast remodel over the last two years.

The east side of the stands were updated with the Don Constantini Multimedia Center last year. The media hub provides multiple press boxes for radio, TV and print journalists along with a control room to aid visual and technological advancements to the scoreboard. Classes are held in it as well.

A parking lot was added behind the media center, for both gameday and classroom purposes.

“We needed to have some answers for the TV broadcast challenges, and it allowed us to free up some space on the west side (of the stadium) to create more suites and help us generate revenue for scholarships,” said Strollo of the media center, which was funded by YSU graduate Don Constantini, founder of Falcon Transport and Comprehensive Logistics. “But it also, more importantly, became a classroom. It’s a state-of-the-art classroom. I think they actually titled it, ‘A classroom of the future.’ It’s a great asset.

“The parking lot … provides closer parking to Kilcawley (Center) and more of the core of our campus. Obviously, for us, it serves Stambaugh, Beeghly and the WATTS Center really well.”

The home opener for the football team is scheduled Sept. 12 against Duquesne.

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