Another ballpark upgrade for 2015: The Windy City ThunderBolts (independent; Frontier League) are installing a new artificial-turf field at Standard Bank Stadium.
The new synthetic turf replaces a natural grass field that has been at the site prior to ballpark opening.
The new surface is expected to be ready sometime in March and will turn Standard Bank Stadium into a true multiuse facility open ten months a year. While the amount of events and visitors to the park will increase greatly with the new surface, the issues caused by weather will decrease drastically.
It’s a proven turf: ProGrass is installing the same exact surface as the Frontier League’s Washington Wild Things and Gateway Grizzlies. There will be no grass or dirt mix used anywhere, including the infield, mounds, and home plate. The infill system of the surface is a sand/rubber mix that will play like natural grass. The main pitcher mound will be movable so that different levels of baseball can be played. The mound will also be removable for events like soccer and concerts.
The old natural grass field at Standard Bank Stadium was a major problem for the team and the facility. The field was installed in 1994 as an amateur field five years before the stadium was constructed around it. The old field was based on a crown drainage system that was heavily damaged during the construction of the stadium. The old field also did not have a professional infrastructure. The sand base present in all professional level fields to promote root growth/strength was not installed when the field was constructed.
While having fewer events and improving the maintenance program on the grass field has improved the look and playability of the surface the past several seasons, changes needed to be made. More than half of the events cancelled at the ballpark every year are due to unsafe field conditions. Sunny day rainouts were common when heavy rains earlier in the day flooded the field and made events impossible. The lack of drainage on the old surface was both hurting the image of the facility and wasting money. The new artificial surface is integrated to the field’s existing drainage system and will be able to hold 2 inches of rain an hour. While non-stop rain could still cancel an event, once the rain stops the field will be ready for play immediately.
Image courtesy Windy City ThunderBolts.