MOUNT VERNON – Cornell College has announced plans for installation of a new synthetic grass surface on the football field at historic Ash Park Stadium.
Construction is scheduled to begin in May and be completed in time for the start of the 2013 football season. Cornell's home opener is Sept. 7 against Lawrence.
"The college is grateful for the gifts and contributions from a number of alumni, parents and friends of the college that made this important project possible," Cornell Director of Athletics John Cochrane said. "Synthetic turf will positively impact our entire athletic program by providing a surface that will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of Ash Park, but also improve our ability to attract excellent student-athletes to our campus."
The switch from natural grass to synthetic turf will provide an all-weather field that can be utilized daily by all of Cornell's athletic teams, club sports, intramurals and other student-based activities in the Mount Vernon community. The new surface will also allow the football team to conduct daily practices on the game field. In the past, football has practiced in the baseball outfield which caused significant damage to that field."
Ash Park, a triangle of land on campus between Main Street and the railroad, has been home to Cornell football for more than 120 years. In 1891, the college purchased 20 acres from the estate of Rueben Ash and built – in Ash Park – the present football field. During that year, Cornell beat Coe, 82-0, in the inaugural game between the oldest college football rivals west of the Mississippi River.
Ash Park Stadium features an eight-lane all-purpose track that surrounds the football field. The track will remain in place during the field renovation. The Cornell Invitational (track and field) on April 6 is the last scheduled college event in the stadium before ground is broken.
"While we are pleased to reach this point, we still have much to accomplish," Cochrane said. "Fundraising will continue toward additional enhancement of Ash Park facilities, including the baseball field and football stadium."
Future improvements to Ash Park include renovation of the baseball field, installment of lights on the football field and enhancements to the football grandstands, press box and concessions.
President Jonathan Brand said the new surface will go a long way toward making Cornell's athletic facilities even more attractive and useful.
"Ultimately, we seek athletic spaces that positively impact the student-athlete experience and our recruitment efforts, and also make our students and alumni proud," he said.