COLLEGEVILLE (AP) -- St. John's University plans to install an artificial surface at Clemens Stadium, replacing the grass field that has existed since the school first started playing football there in 1908.
Installation is expected to begin the first week in June and be done by the time the Johnnies begin practice in August. Local philanthropist Bill Clemens, whom the stadium is named after, will donate the money to pay for the nearly $700,000 cost of the project.
"We were reluctant to go with artificial turf right away, but they've made such advances that it's not like it once was," said St. John's football coach John Gagliardi, who will begin his 50th season at the school this fall. Gagliardi is 20 wins shy of former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson's all-time collegiate victory record of 408.
Clemens previously helped finance the construction of a new press box, concession stand and bleachers at the field. He said he considers this to be "phase two" of his involvement with the stadium and would be ready to help out further in the future.
"In the fall in central Minnesota, St. John's football is really a focal point," Clemens said. "If we can do something to help keep that strong we're happy to do it because of what the program stands for."
The donation will allow the school to install a turf that has been placed in at least 50 stadiums across the country. St. Cloud State also is planning to install artificial turf in a new stadium expected to open in 2004.
The new St. John's surface, known as SprinTurf, is a polyethylene grass surface made from recycled rubber that rests on a stabilizing rubber base. The surface is designed to resemble individual blades of grass.
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