Bright green grass. A fresh cut look. Not things you’d expect to find at a Pacific Northwest baseball field in the middle of December.
Yet that’s how things are starting to look at Roseburg’s Bill Gray Stadium at One Champion Carwash Field as installation of artificial turf finally got started at the facility on Saturday.
Crews from Synthetic Turf Consulting started laying long stretches of alternating light and dark green turf in the outfield on Saturday and work has continued every day since, despite cold and sometimes wet conditions.
The project has seen multiple delays since efforts got under way to replace the natural turf playing surface in 2017, but that hasn’t spoiled the excitement of finally seeing the dream become a reality.
“I got to see the first roll of turf laid out,” said Jeremiah Robbins, head coach of the Umpqua Community College and Dr. Stewart’s American Legion baseball teams. Both programs will call the new field home.
“Players and staff are ecstatic to see it happening,” added Robbins, who has been heavily involved in the redesign.
The alternating light and dark green stripes in the outfield will continue onto the infield “grass.” A rich, dark chocolaty brown color was selected for the synthetic material that will represent the dirt infield, mound, home plate and warning tracks.
Robbins said he modeled the light and dark stripes in the grass from PK Park in Eugene, home of the Oregon Ducks and the Eugene Emeralds minor league baseball team. The dirt color was copied from Vanderbilt University’s Hawkins Field.
There will be no actual dirt on the field. Home plate, the mound and the base paths will all be covered with the synthetic turf.
Home plate has also been moved back about 10 feet to shrink the space between it and the backstop to a more normal distance. Robbins said this will move the foul lines and create even more in-play territory. It will also make home runs even harder to come by.
“It was a pitcher’s ballpark before and it will continue to be a pitcher’s ballpark,” Robbins said.
The new field will also feature a large logo behind home plate for One Champion Carwash, the new naming sponsor that helped with funding the turf project. The field previously had been known as Legion Field.
An artificial turf field at Bill Gray Stadium has been a project more than two years in the making.
Fundraising, weather, permits, insurance, a health emergency for one of the project managers and delays in shipping the materials all led to the field replacement taking much longer than anticipated.
Initially, the hope was to have a new turf field installed prior to the spring high school season in 2018. Fundraising for the turf replacement took longer than desired and pushed back the project timeline a full year.
The financial aspects of the project were in place by early 2019, but a massive snowstorm and winter rains washed out plans to get the field converted before Roseburg High and Umpqua Valley Christian School began their high school games.
Groundbreaking finally took place not long after the conclusion of the Class A American Legion baseball state tournament in August of 2019. The project was anticipated to be done by Thanksgiving, but due to more obstacles, the target is now early January, 2020.
Robbins and his Umpqua Riverhawks baseball team will be the first local program to use the field once it’s completed.
“The (UCC athletes) are back from break on Jan. 3,” Robbins said. “As soon as they’re done with the field, we’ll be out there.”
UCC has its first home game scheduled for Feb. 20. It will be the first Umpqua Community College home baseball game since the school dropped the sport in 1985.
One Champion Carwash Field will also be the home site for Roseburg High School, Umpqua Valley Christian and the local American Legion baseball program.
“It’s fantastic for RHS and the other clubs that will use the field,” Roseburg baseball coach Troy Thompson said. “It will be nice to have a facility that will allow us to work no matter what the conditions.”
Roseburg High holds its first home game on March 18, while UVC opens its season at home on March 19.
The American Legion baseball season begins in early June.