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SOU continues work on field project

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University is accepting bids for the project that will replace the football field and track facilities at Raider Stadium and is now eyeing a mid-June start, said athletic director Matt Sayre.

The late start will allow the school to host its graduation ceremony but will also push the finish date back past the start of the football season, which begins with a game at Menlo on Aug. 30. Southern Oregon's home opener is also its Frontier Conference opener, and it's a big one — Sept. 6 against national powerhouse Carroll College, ranked No. 2 in the NAIA spring Top 25 poll. The Raiders are ranked No. 24.

Sayre said that the school will try to keep any games that must be moved as close to Ashland as possible. Last season, in an effort to widen the team's fan base, the Raiders opened their home schedule at Mel Ingram Field in Grants Pass. Sayre would like the team to be closer to Ashland this season, possibly at Medford's Spiegelberg Stadium, where the Raiders hosted their 2012 season opener.

"We're still kind of weighing the options," he said. "As soon as we get the bids back we will start to reach out to the Spiegelberg folks."

Bids for the project, expected to cost between $1.6 million and $1.7 million, according to Sayre, and to be designed by Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning out of Eugene, will be accepted until 4 p.m. Thursday.

The drawings of the new field, available at the Oregon University System's business and bid opportunities web page (www.ous.edu), reveal a facility designed to host a variety of sporting events. It will be lined for football, soccer and lacrosse and will also be equipped to stage every track and field event, a significant upgrade for a school that hasn't been able to host a track event in the last three years.

Though the artificial surface will likely make the new field a popular choice for local youth and club sports teams, there will be no doubt to which college team it belongs — the word "Southern" will be printed in the north end zone, "Oregon" in the south and painted at midfield, stretching roughly 30 yards across, will be SOU's Raider hawk emblem.

"I think it's going to be great," Sayre said. "There's no prettier place to watch a football game than Southern Oregon University."

For track and field meets, the old track will be replaced with an eight-lane track. Most of the field events will be viewable from the stadium bleachers, but not all. The javelin, hammer and discus events will be outside the track beyond the north end zone, between the track and SOU's women's soccer field. The long jump and triple jump pit will also be near the north end zone but inside the track, while the shot put ring will be near the north end zone, between the bleachers and the main ticket gate.

Also in the plans are bold white yardage line numbers for the 10, 20 and so on, and a four-inch wide red accent stripe that will wrap around the entire field.

As for the field itself, Sayre said the school has decided to use monofilament artificial turf. The decision was made after Sayre and other SOU administrators viewed various synthetic grass surfaces at the University of Oregon. The tour, led by Oregon's head groundskeeper, was set up by former Raider and current UO head football coach Mark Helfrich.

Sayre said he and his colleagues liked the look and feel of monofilament grass, which doesn't bend and lay flat after continuous use but instead stands up like natural grass.

"We wanted something that looked more like Kentucky bluegrass," Sayre said.

According to the project manual, bids will be opened and publicly read aloud on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the SOU facilities management and planning department (351 Walker Ave.). Also, according to the manual, all on-site work will be completed between June 18 and Sept. 18, which would allow SOU to host College of Idaho on Sept. 20.

Reach sports editor Joe Zavala at 541-776-4469, or email jzavala@dailytidings.com