Soccer players using Robertson Field will pass on grass half as often by this summer if a plan to install artificial turf over much of the field goes according to schedule.

The contract to replace 4.11 acres of the roughly eight-acre field with synthetic turf will be placed up for bid starting Friday. Director of Physical Activities and Recreation Jon Spaventa said the university hopes to have work begun by early February to be completed by July 1. The university estimates the cost of the project at $1.4 million.

Robertson Field, which is located in front of the Recreation Center and remains lit until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, is popular for many intramural sports, including soccer, ultimate Frisbee, flag football and softball.

Spaventa said he initially opposed switching to synthetic turf but changed his mind after visiting artificial fields at other schools and hearing presentations from turf manufacturers.

“I believe that given ideal conditions and the resources necessary to maintain it, natural turf is the preferred playing surface for most sports,” Spaventa said. “But the synthetic turf handles all kinds of weather. The fields drain, so it makes practical sense. With the varied uses that the field receives, in the long term, synthetic might be a better investment.”

Spaventa said many of the problems maintaining the fields in recent years could be attributed to the heavy damage they sustained when used during or after heavy rains.

“When it’s raining, the students like to play football and get muddy, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “But it can be very damaging to the field.”

The new field will be fenced in and “secure,” Spaventa said, mostly to keep vehicles off of the surface. As part of the project, the university will also renovate a 120-by-50 yard portion of the remaining natural grass playing fields. That renovation, which will include a new irrigation system, will take place on the most westerly portion of Robertson Field.

Student athletes at Rob Field expressed mixed opinions about the possible change.

“The turf will be cool,” senior political science major Rick Usher said. “It will only enhance my already blazing speed.”

Other students prefer the traditional natural playing surface.

“I’m a purist; I like the grass,” senior political science major Steve Marvin said. “I like sliding down in there and getting dirty.”

The Robertson Field renovation project will be jointly funded by the Student Fee Advisory Committee, the RecCen Governance Board, the Dept. of Physical Activities and Recreation, the Division of Student Affairs and the Chancellor’s Office.