By Cory SpaughSports Writer
(Editors Note: The following is the second and final part of a series where Western Carolinian sports writer Cory Spaugh gathers opinions on the new turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field)
Eight years since the last makeover, the Catamounts unveiled a new playing surface at E.J Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field during homecoming weekend on Oct. 4, which is part of the new branding initiative at Western Carolina.
The new turf did not usher in a win for the Catamounts, losing to Samford 21-6, but the players that got to play on the new field and be a part of the historic day were both honored and excited.
“The new turf raised the excitement level of the team. It makes us feel proud to be able to play on this high of quality surface,” said wide receiver for Western Carolina Nate Harris. “We now have a surface that is similar to bigger schools and even some professional teams. This new surface is no doubt a superior quality to the last turf that had been installed before this season.”
The new turf, which features synthetic blades of grass that are woven on top of a nylon woven base, are filled over with dirt to provide the players stability and secure footing. The new fierce Catamount logo is displayed at midfield, along with the signature block lettering of WCU under it.
Not only does the new field look better than the old one, it also offers the players benefits on the field. As players on a division 1-A football team, the Catamount players need to be able to make fast, quick, and aggressive cuts and moves on the field with one hundred percent confidence that the surface beneath their feet will respond appropriately. As a receiver, Harris said the new turf is an upgrade.
“This new turf feels more like natural grass than the old turf,” said Harris. “It allows my cleats to get a better grip on the ground and gives me more confidence in running routes and making breaks on the ball.”
Fellow Catamount C.J. Johnson, who play defensive end, also likes the feel.
“As a defensive lineman, it feels better to redirect and plant on the new surface. It feels like grass under my feet whereas the old turf felt more like carpet,” said Johnson. “The new turf provides a more solid and stable footing for pushing off and making fast and sudden moves.”
After the loss to Samford in the field inaugural game, Western Carolina had a second shot for a win on the team’s new turf on Oct. 25, but the Catamounts fell to Georgia Southern 38-21 in overtime. It was third times a charm for Western on Nov. 1 though when the Catamounts snapped a 20 game losing skid in the Southern Conference against Chattanooga in a 27-7 victory.