It’s hard to find a college football field that has been around as long as Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) T. Boone Pickens Stadium, so it is no wonder that the school has put a lot of effort into keeping it standing strong. This task has been a particular challenge because Oklahoma is a state that experiences a range of extreme, severe weather: wildfires, ice storms, floods, droughts, and hurricanes. The state is in the middle of “Tornado Alley!”
One of Oklahoma State’s most significant projects for Pickens Stadium’s playing field was installing state-of-the-art AirField Systems 100% recycled high-performance synthetic drainage in 2011. It is sustainably designed and improves upon traditional base types.
AirField’s AirDrain Agronomic Sports Field Drainage System’s fully vertical setup helps to make fields playable in any weather conditions. It can release over 171 inches of water per hour and capture, store, and reuse stormwater. Additionally, it offers a lower surface hardness level than concrete or aggregate sub-bases provide for artificial turf. Reducing surface hardness levels lessens the hard impact that can cause injuries.
Another sustainability advantage of the AirField setup is that it does not have to be retooled when a stadium’s playing field is replaced. This adaptability has proven beneficial for OSU because it has used several turfs at Pickens Stadium since the start of the new millennium. In 2005, the stadium became one of the first two NCAA major conference football venues to put in the grass-like Desso Sport System’s Football Pro Artificial Grass Surface.
Then, in 2014, OSU switched to AstroTurf 3D. Because this cutting-edge material contained high-fiber density, light infill, and narrow gauge between the fiber rows, it scored a low and preferable Density, Infill, and Gauge rating.
To “test out” this artificial grass, the university first put it on the athletic department’s practice fields the year before the Pickens Stadium installation.
“Our players, coaches, and staff have been extremely satisfied with those AstroTurf fields …,” stated Mike Holder, OSU’s athletic director at that time.
After the Oklahoma State Cowboys won the 2022 Fiesta Bowl, the school was not satisfied to simply maintain the status quo. To continue to improve the football program, OSU again upgraded the playing surface at Pickens Stadium, along with its indoor and outdoor practice fields with FieldTurf.
One of the top artificial grasses today, it also boasts the world’s first and only smart field technology. Through computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning algorithms, FieldTurf monitors Pickens Stadium’s field, records activities, and provides OSU with highly advanced performance analytics.
FieldTurf has been a leader in sustainability efforts. In 2022, the company teamed with the Carbonfund.org Foundation to become the first artificial turf manufacturer to offer a carbon offset program to its customers. The company has a comprehensive sustainability program that includes having one of its main production plants operate 100% on renewable energy.
Oklahoma State’s green projects don’t just involve Pickens Stadium playing field. In 2007, OSU launched the “Real Cowboys Recycle” initiative at Cowboys home football games.
This student-organized grassroots program started with aluminum, paper, and plastic recycling bins placed in one tailgating area, with volunteers canvassing other spots. The paper and plastics were taken to Allied Waste Services, while the aluminum cans were donated to Habitat For Humanity’s Cans for Humanity campaign.
“I’ve been trying to tackle the giant of general recycling all over campus, and I thought this would be a great way to springboard recycling at OSU and in Stillwater,” explained Cortney Timmons, the student who started this project.
“Real Cowboys Recycle” has proven to be a success. More than 170,000 aluminum cans were collected just through its first four football seasons. Over the years, the program has won awards and has continued to be a strong presence on OSU’s campus.
Student volunteers still pass out recycling bags to tailgaters before games, and after the festivities, they collect the bags and sort out the recyclables. And, as “Real Cowboys Recycle” leadership purposely emphasizes, students can attend Cowboys football games even if they volunteer.