Rowan University will spend an estimated $2.5 million to convert two sports fields from grass to synthetic turf, the school announced Monday.
Students had been voting this semester on a referendum to create a $10.75 per semester fee to fund the project; Rowan administrators decided to take the project on without direct cost to students.
"It all started with students. It was essentially students that were coming up to the Rec Center and telling them that these fields weren't good," said Joe Chen, 22, the president of Rowan's student government.
"By midseason … the fields were literally dirt and not playable, essentially," said Chen, a senior from Mercer County who is studying human resources management. "It just wasn't great quality."
Rowan will convert its current intramural field, across from the Recreation Center, making it more durable and lowering maintenance costs, said Donald E. Moore, senior vice president for facilities, planning, and operations. That will allow greater use of that field, especially as enrollment grows over, he said.
"There are some club teams from other universities and colleges that just prefer not to come over and play on our fields with our club teams," Moore said. The artifical turf will increase safety, he said.
The university's soccer field, currently used only for its NCAA team, also will be converted, allowing it to be opened to intramural and club sports use. Moore said he hopes to install lighting for the soccer field, along with fencing for both fields.
Planning and design work will begin soon, Moore said, with physical work completed over the summer of 2016.
Students have been voting for weeks on a referendum that, if passed, would have generated about $1.6 million over seven years. The $10.75 fee would be paid by all full-time undergraduate students each semester over that time period.
As of last Friday, when votes were last tallied, more than 1,200 students had gone online to vote, with about 60 percent in favor of the fee to finance the project, Chen said.
Monday's announcement that the university would take the project on without additional student fees meant the administration was looking beyond academics to improve student life, Chen said.
"That's why we're so happy, is the university saw the need," he said. "We appreciate the idea that school is more than academics … we're ecstatic, absolutely happy about it."