The football field at Alex Nemzek Stadium has been torn up with mounds of dirt and compacted rock scattered inside Ron Masanz Track. What appears like a mess to most, looks like progress to Minnesota State Moorhead athletic director Doug Peters.
"It's exciting to start to see it come together, knowing the impact that it's going to have for our football program and the rest of our students," Peters said. "It's actually becoming a reality."
Scheels Field is starting to take shape, a project that is expected to be completed in mid-August. That's a few weeks before the Dragons are supposed to play their first football game on the artificial turf.
MSUM opens it season at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 against Winona State.
Steve Scheel, CEO of Scheels, donated $1 million to cover the cost of the new field. A new lighting system is also being installed for $450,000. That's not part of the Scheels donation.
Peters said there will be four light poles, two on each side of the field, with enough illumination so night games can be shot in high definition for television broadcasts.
"We know we want to play some night games," Peters said. "So we wanted to make sure that we had the light powerful enough to shoot HD at night."
Peters said turf installation is expected to start in mid-July in hopes of completing the project before the opening practice date, which is Aug. 13.
"That's the target we're shooting for," Peters said.
Peters said the new surface and lighting will benefit more than the football program. The field is being lined for soccer so playing soccer games at Nemzek Stadium is a possibility. Peters said the softball team could also use the new field for practice and even games if its normal softball diamond is unplayable.
"We have seen schools play (softball) games on their football field and we'd be able to do the same," Peters said.
In the past, the natural grass football game field wasn't used often outside of games to keep the surface from getting too worn. Peters said intramural and club sports will benefit from the new artificial grass.
"What is does is it opens up grass space and adds hours to the day because we have the lights," Peters said. "We haven't allowed anyone on the football field in order to keep the surface nice. It really opens up the opportunities for the intramural and the club sports."
The football team has had to move past spring practices to artificial turf fields at North Dakota State and Fargo Shanley if the MSUM fields have been unplayable due to weather. During the fall, practices later in the season had to be cut short due to lack of daylight. The old lighting system was rarely used.
"We don't have to worry about what our surface is going to be like," Peters said. "We don't have to worry about it being dark. We've got the lights and we got the surface that we can practice on in virtually any conditions."
Peters said being able to have night events at Nemzek Stadium opens the possibility of hosting high schools events, like football games.
"That appeal is huge," Peters said. "One of our roles in the community is to engage our community and get involved with our community."