LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State University’s football team may play its home games on artificial turf as soon as this August.
The NMSU regents Friday approved $1.3 million to install artificial turf at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Stan Fulton, for whom the Stan Fulton Center is named, donated $1 million for the turf installation at the request of President Garrey Carruthers.
The turf proposal now goes before the Higher Education Department and the state Board of Finance for approval.
The two agencies approve requests of more than $300,000 for the NMSU main campus to ensure public funds are used properly, officials said.
Aggies head football coach Doug Martin called artificial turf a “game changer,” saying it would improve player safety and allow other campus and community groups to use the field year-round.
During offseason practices, when grass is growing in, players often slip and suffer injuries, he said.
“We need a surface that maintains throughout the year,” he said.
Artificial turf could also aid recruiting efforts as it is “what young men want to play on these days,” he said.
NMSU currently paints its grass field during recruiting season to make it look nicer, he said.
The University of New Mexico has played on a synthetic surface at University Stadium since 2012.
NMSU regent Ike Pino questioned why an agriculture school would have fake grass. Martin and Carruthers said an artificial turf has more hours of use than grass.
Rather than having to protect the grass field during the offseason, a synthetic-turf field could be opened to cheerleading and band camps, car shows and other events, Martin said.
“We could engage a lot more people, get them on our campus,” he said.
Officials said maintaining turf would be cheaper than grass, after the university purchases the materials needed to care for the new surface.
Grass maintenance totals nearly $60,000 a year, Carruthers said. Turf would cost about $12,000 a year, he said, and would last about 10 years.
NMSU officials expect to bring the turf request before the state boards next month.
The Aggies’ first home game is Aug. 28 against Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Las Cruces Superintendent of Schools Stan Rounds agreed to let NMSU use LCPS’ Field of Dreams if Memorial Stadium isn’t ready by then, Carruthers noted with a laugh.