Diane Dahlmann may hail from Chicago, but she definitely has Missouri's famed "show me" trait. Before the University of Missouri was to sign on the dotted line, she wanted to make sure Mizzou’s rec department was getting value for money. That commitment to quality was at the core of the decision to replace the worn-out surface at Stankowski Recreation Field. The turf replacement now complete, Mizzou's rec department has a "show me" story for peers at colleges and universities across the nation.
The heavily used field had been a hot issue on campus for the past few years. "The old turf had really worn out two or three years before we had been able to replace it," Ms. Dalhmann explains. "Students were most definitely aware of the condition of the field and in an extraordinary way were very vocal about wanting to replace it with the best commercial artificial turf on the market."
Stankowski Field is strategically located at the very center of Mizzou's Columbia Campus. Students feel a sense of ownership of the field, which stands to reason: It really belongs to them. The field is part of the university's recreational department, rather than the athletics and physical education departments.
From morning well into the night, you can see students out on the field for activities ranging from pick-up soccer games and flag football to Frisbee and hacky sack. It's also a place where students can work off excess energy or simply throw a ball around. Activity on the field gets under way at 5:30 most mornings when ROTC training begins and the lights aren’t turned off until 1 am. Attempts to close earlier were met with howls of protests from the students.
It was important for Ms. Dahlmann that students had a voice in the decision of what surface would be used. "We travelled to a number of installations, compared products, brought samples back for our students to look at, and received their input. Of course they made, in my opinion, the obvious choice with the Mondoturf." Installation was completed by the first week of July and everyone is delighted. On a campus of close to 30,000 students, Ms. Dahlmann hasn't heard a single complaint. "Quite honestly, students pay the fees, their rave reviews are all I need." Did the students have environmental concerns? “When you have a product that's called Ecofill®, it speaks to them.
But even more important was that the surface was going to remain cooler than any of the other surfaces with different sorts of infill, so that was a plus as well.” Gone as well, now, are the injuries of playing on a worn out surface and one that didn't drain well.
New fields are expensive and other kinds of sceptics were wondering how the team at Mizzou got the job done in hard times. When she took on the job in December of 1997 Stankowski field had just got a new artificial turf. Despite that “I kept pressing the division of student affairs to literally tuck away about 100k a year. I was told 'you don't want to have to do that' and I said: 'No, I really do, I think I have a moral and ethical duty to put the money away'.” Which is what she did at between 100 and 200 thousand a year: “When the time came to replace the old turf we had 1.5 million dollars ready to pay for the project.”
With the field in place and having hosted a range of summer sports camps as well as the Missouri Special Olympics, Ms. Dahlmann is a happy person. “I have the dream job of all campus recreation directors.” You can take her at her word - University of Missouri was ranked “First in the Nation” for its recreation facilities.