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Purdue's 'scientific artists' prepare Ross-Ade Stadium for game day

The field may look pretty on the surface, but it's all about what you don't see that makes it unique.

Posted: Sep 6, 2019 7:47 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue's team of scientific artists has Ross-Ade Stadium all ready to go for the start of the 2019 football season Saturday. 

The field may look pretty on the surface, but it's all about what you don't see that makes it unique.

The work for the Purdue Sports Turf team begins well before the season starts. 

"Our process starts in May when the grass wakes up," said turf manager Brian Bornino.

Purdue is the furthest college north to have Bermuda grass on its football field, and it has great benefits.

"It has above ground stems and below ground stems. So it can recover from football traffic, from divots and things like that, way faster than cool-season," said Bornino. "Essentially what you get is this big mat of lateral growth."

When the first frost comes, the grass goes dormant. Bornino said that can happen anytime between mid-September and late-November.

"We can keep the soil temperatures up by using blankets," Bornino described. "We found that if you keep the frost off of it, we can keep it green a little bit longer."

Then when the grass is green, it's time for the fun part.

"All of our logos come through plastic stencils," said Bornino. "We dot them, then edge them. Usually on Wednesday's, weather dependant, we do all the white. The hashes, the lines, the numbers. Then we use Thursday's to do logos, boarders, last minute touch ups."

"Gray covers the best," Assistant Sports Turf Manager Steve Vonderheide said of the different paints. "Black we usually have to put two or three coats on."

They say there's a secret to getting the lines painted to perfection.

"It kind of goes back to Happy Gilmore where he says 'Happy, it's all in the hips!'"

If you think you have to cut your grass too much, imagine being these guys. The turf crew cuts the grass at Ross-Ade one time a day!

Up top, it's all artwork. The real magic of the turf happens down below.

"What's unique here is that we have the very first PAT System. That is prescription athletic turf and it's a drainage system," said Bornino.

The PAT system was designed at Purdue as a class project in 1971. Bornino said nobody else in the country has a system like this.

"What we are standing on is a gigantic bathtub that is about 16 inches deep in the middle of the field and nine inches at the goalposts. It slops in and is covered in plastic and then it has two four-inch drain lines that meet in the middle and then drain out."

The crew even let News 18's Trevor Peters take a try at painting. If the 'R' in messed up Saturday, that is why!

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