Southern Miss installs new artificial turf at The Rock

Published 5:04 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss will be covering some new ground this football season.

Installation of a new playing surface was recently completed at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium, marking the latest renovation to the 91-year-old facility.

The new surface is the CoolPlay system that consists of a three-layer infill system of silica sand, cryogenic rubber and a blend of the two laid down into a 2.5-inch tall ClassicHD artificial surface.

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The system is the same one used on Southern Miss’ Pete Taylor Park baseball field. It is designed to reduce injuries and improve drainage by as much as 40 percent. It is also billed as being 35 degrees cooler than other traditional sand and rubber systems — an important feature for a stadium in Mississippi.

Southern Miss’ new surface installation took just over a month and included the complete removal of the old surface and installation of the new surface, including new logo placements and infill. Southern Miss also received new goal posts as part of the project.

Faulkner Field was dedicated on Oct. 29, 1932 and named for Louis Edward “L.E.” Faulkner. The chairman of Hattiesburg’s Committee on Unemployment Relief and vice president and general manager of the Mississippi Central Railroad had assembled a team of unemployed men to build an athletic field measured to be 600 feet long and 250 feet across.

The original Faulkner Field featured a wooden grandstand seating 4,000. In 1938, need for housing and an increased capacity led to the wooden stands being replaced by the East Side dormitory and stands which earned the stadium the endearing nickname of “The Rock” by the players who carried the blocks of concrete that make up the seats. It was an homage to the famous Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco.

Faulkner Field received another addition to its west side in 1950, raising capacity to 15,000.

In 1976, after a lengthy renovation process which kept the Golden Eagles from playing a home game in 1974 or 1975, “The Rock” became M.M. Roberts Stadium in honor of Dr. M.M. Roberts, an alumnus, letterwinner and supporter of Southern Miss and former member of the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning. The playing surface remained Faulkner Field, with the venue’s full moniker now reading Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

In 2004, Gene Carlisle, a 1964 Southern Miss alumnus, pledged the vast majority of a $500,000 sum to install the program’s first artificial playing surface. Faulkner Field became Carlisle-Faulkner Field in Carlisle’s honor for the 2004 season.

The turf was replaced in 2013 after a powerful EF-4 tornado damaged a number of buildings on campus and deposited debris in the stadium. The new surface is the third generation of artificial turf at the field.
Southern Miss will play its first game on the new turf on Sept. 2, against Alcorn State in the 2023 season opener.