The future home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers took on a whole new look Tuesday -- the look of a football field.
As workers put in the last piece of artificial turf in the late afternoon, it wasn't hard to imagine quarterback Buck Pierce running on the field to play catch with receiver Terrence Edwards.
"It's a major milestone," said Mike Clynes, project director with Stuart Olson Dominion and the man overseeing one of the biggest construction projects in Winnipeg's history.
While the turf looks nice, it's not quite ready for 300-pound, cleat-wearing linemen battling each other for position.
It will take about a week to install the finishing touch, a rubber and sand mixture. Made by U.S.-based FieldTurf Tarkett, Clynes said the turf is the best product on the market.
"It minimizes the injuries from impact that players receive on the field," he said, noting the field will contain the equivalent of more than 27,000 recycled car tires.
Although the final steps make the turf installation look easy, Clynes said there is an art to it.
"It's a very delicate process. You start off by grooming the clay (underneath) to put a slope in so should any water migrate down to the clay, it slopes into troughs that we've installed. There's also a secondary draining system just above the clay to catch any water that might come up from the ground and wick it away. Then we put in our layers of rock. The limestone rock is almost like sand. Our primary drain is just under that layer to take any water away from the field surface," he said.
FieldTurf has already been installed in 22 National Football League stadiums and four other CFL facilities. It has installed 250 fields in North America over the last year.
Another construction milestone will be reached in the next day or two when the goalposts will be installed. The suite level on the east side is nearly complete, too.
Furniture is scheduled to arrive this week. There are 47 suites in total.
The difference in the surroundings between the soon-to-be-mothballed Canad Inns Stadium and the new Investors Group Field should be just as noticeable as when Winnipeg hockey fans first laid their eyes on the MTS Centre eight years ago.
For example, fans won't find a steel bench anywhere. Most of the 33,500 seats will be 55 centimetres wide with a cupholder and 42.5 cm of legroom -- so you won't have to stand up when somebody wants to get by. There will also be loge seating around the concourse level featuring tables and swivel chairs.
"I think the further away you get from the field, the better the view," Clynes said.
If Bomber fans can get loud at Canad Inns Stadium, just wait until next year. Clynes said the arch trusses above the east and west sides of the new stadium were designed with an undulating metal roof to contain the sound and "enhance the audio effect." There will also be 11 speaker clusters hanging from the roof as well as speakers on every column on every level, including the basement.
"It will be an extreme experience when the roar of the crowd hits," he said.
One area where the football team appears to have gone to school on the hockey club is on washrooms. Clynes said he was instructed to build them 50 per cent larger than originally planned with separate entrances and exits to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.
The concession areas will also be 50 per cent bigger than the original drawings.
Investors Group Field
The two large video screens behind both end zones will be high-definition and measure 38 metres by nine metres. They will be larger than the video screens at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The field is 7.5 metres lower than the main concourse.
The stadium has been designed to accommodate a 500-seat full-time restaurant.
There are between 300 and 500 workers on the site each day. They have put in more than one million man-hours in the construction process.
The stadium's arch trusses support two hectares of roof. The trusses are the largest and highest in Canada and are about 60 metres in the air.
The stadium has been dubbed Project 85 in honour of former wide receiver Milt Stegall's jersey number.
The company FieldTurf produces the state-of-the-art artificial turf that now makes up the field at Investors Group Field, the new Blue Bombers stadium. After the carpet of artificial grass is laid, 500 tonnes of rubber and sand are poured into the "grass" to create infill. Here are photos from the installation on Tuesday, October 16th.