The melody of “The Victors” will emanate from Elbel Field tonight, not from a Michigan Marching Band practice, but to celebrate the completion of upgrades to the field.

The $1.6 million project, completed this summer, was funded by the Office of the University’s Vice President for Student Affairs and the Office of the Provost in an effort to improve the University’s recreational sports facilities. The updates include the installation of artificial turf on the band’s practice field and the restoration of the natural grass field, which was named after University music student Louis Elbel who wrote “The Victors” in 1898.

Recreational Sports Director William Canning said his department received the money for the project roughly a year and a half ago.

The improvements to the field began at the end of May and were completed on Aug. 5. The new artificial field, which replaced an asphalt parking lot and band practice area, will be used by the Michigan Marching Band, student groups such as intramural and club sports teams and other members of the community, Canning said.

The company that installed the synthetic turf is the same one that installed the turf at the Big House and the Al Glick Field House indoor and outdoor practice fields. Feedback from the Marching Band, which has used the synthetic field for practice the past three weeks, has been positive, Canning said.

“They no longer have tired legs (or) shin splints … they love it,” Canning said. “With the marching and cadence that they do, it is very, very repetitive. But now, it’s repetitive on exactly the same surface that they are performing on. It’s tremendous.”

Unlike other fields at the University, the synthetic field will offer athletic student groups a space to practice and play for more days throughout the year, since mud and permafrost won’t affect the artifical turf, Canning pointed out. The new field material, which is made of recycled tires and sand, will particularly help spring sports like rugby, he said.

Nick Cilifone, a graduate student who plays for the University’s men’s club soccer team, said before the renovations, Elbel Field was difficult to practice and play on.

“It was in pretty bad shape, especially when it got colder,” Cilifone said. “It was very difficult to train there.”

Fellow teammate Kevin Zussman, a senior in the Business School, said practicing on the natural grass field made it difficult when the team played their games on synthetic turf. Though he said the new synthetic field isn’t large enough for full scrimmages, he said it will be “good for drills and small games.”

The renovations at Elbel Field also included a new, wrought iron fence around the perimeter of the field, which Canning said was funded and designed by Business and Finance Department at the University. The new fence will allow the Department of Recreational Sports to schedule and supervise the field hours and maintain the top dressing, aerating and seeding that occurred over the summer to restore the field.

The locked fence will also keep people attending the football games from crossing the field on their way in and out of the Big House — a shortcut that can cause a lot of damage to the natural grass field, Canning said.

“Our department, recreational sports, has much more control over the field now … (Elbel Field) will be open many hours, but it will also be controlled,” Canning said. “And being able to control it, will allow us to have a more quality field.”

The grand opening of Elbel Field at 7:30 p.m. tonight will involve a dedication ceremony and addresses by Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper, President of the Club Sports Council Jessica Kraft and Michigan Marching Band Drum Major Jeff McMahon. After the ribbon cutting, there will be games and giveaways involving marching band members and club sports teams.

Other Department of Recreational Sports projects using the $1.6 million include locker room improvements in the North Campus Recreational Building and Central Campus Recreational Building. The department has also installed a new road and roof at the Radrick Recreation Area, on Dixboro Rd., which houses the Challenge Program.

The funding will also allow 80 to 90 exercise machines to be replaced at recreational facilities by the end of the month, according to Canning. Additionally, televisions and cable will be installed in select areas at the Intramural Sports Building, CCRB and NCRB this month.

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