Construction began recently at Western Carolina’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium as the playing surface on Bob Waters Field is being replaced. The project, which started with the removal of the old turf, is slated to be completed by Aug. 1.

“I can’t express how excited we were to see construction begin on Friday,” said Alex Gary, who recently took over as the school’s athletic director. “Aided in part by generous donations from Catamount Nation, this project is just the beginning of several improvements that we have planned. I also see this project’s progress as something that will motivate our alumni, fan base and our current student-athletes.”

Designed by Woolpert, Inc., of Charlotte, GeoSurfaces Southeast, Inc., of Mooresville is the contractor and is handling the removal and demolition of the existing synthetic surface, and replacing it with a new synthetic turf that will be laid over a shock pad. 

Both products – the turf and the shock pads – are 100-percent recyclable.

The project includes resurfacing the perimeter walkway immediately around the field with a turf system, the addition of a new synthetic turf practice area referred to as “the Hog Pit” using the same turf material as the field, and the installation of miscellaneous site items such as goal posts, fencing and concrete curbing.

The new playing surface will replace the previous artificial turf that was installed in September 2008.

“The new turf is a much-needed project that will help improve the health, safety, welfare and student-athlete experience for our players,” said Mark Speir, WCU’s football coach. “The addition of the linemen or sled annex field will also add more practice space and efficiency. We are very grateful for the support of the university and our generous donors who helped make this project possible. It will be a great new look for our fans and recruits in Catamount Country.”

The football program is not the only benefactor of the project. The state-of-the-art turf replacement will continue to be used by almost all of WCU’s student-athletes in athletic performance for strength and conditioning programs; WCU’s “Pride of the Mountains” marching band; and WCU intramurals and the spirit/cheer programs.

Catamount Club fundraising efforts and donations by supporters of WCU athletics helped make the project possible. Donations for the project finished around $425,000, which included a record-setting $218,525 pledged around the “Giving Tuesday” initiative on Dec. 3. By smashing the $50,000 goal threshold on Giving Tuesday, Catamount Club members Mike and Marsha Sullivan added a challenge gift of an additional $50,000 to their initial $50,000 gift.

WCU’s football field turf replacement project is the second large resurfacing project this year. The track at the Catamount Athletic Complex was recently replaced with a new Mondo Sportflex Super X 720 surface.