By Rudy Arispe

If you’ve helped fill the stands at any of this football season’s home games, you’ve surely noticed the upgrades at the Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium. (And if you haven’t yet cheered on your team, now is your chance to show support and check out what’s new.)

UIW Athletics is joining the ranks of NFL teams, including the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, committed to preventing concussions and other sports injuries to its players with the recent installation of a new football field surface, which the Cardinals have put to the test since the first home game of the season on Sept. 15.

The installation of FieldTurf ’s Classic HD with concussion prevention infill at Benson Stadium was made possible with a $250,000 gift from Methodist Healthcare System and Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, making it the second-largest gift in UIW Athletics history.

“There has been scientific research that shows fewer injuries occur when playing on this type of turf, and professional football teams, including the New England Patriots and others, have put this cushion underneath their field surface to protect their players,” said Eric Morris, UIW head football coach. “Our athletes take high-impact hits. They have helmets on to protect them. I know new helmet technology goes up ever year. But whenever you can add that extra padding for the safety of our athletes, it helps reduce injuries.

“Our goal is to create a safe environment for our students to play football,” Morris continued. “We take precautions to make sure we help our students not only while they’re here but continue to help them as long as they live, because concussions have been shown to have lasting effects on certain individuals. That’s something we don’t take lightly. The more we can do to protect our athletes, the better off we’ll all be.”

In a three-year study of collegiate football games, FieldTurf versus natural grass was found to have 13 percent fewer muscle strains/tears, 11 percent fewer concussions, 31 percent fewer ligament tears, 24 percent fewer high ankle sprains and 21 percent fewer severe injuries, according to the company’s website.

FieldTurf ’s Classic HD

FieldTurf ’s Classic HD

The Classic HD turf spans approximately 99,000 square feet and is constructed with FieldTurf ’s newest slit-film fiber that includes 9.2 pounds-per square-foot of infill, crafted for maximum safety and durability.

Moreover, the stadium now features a red and black camouflage design in the end zones emblazoned with the words “Military City USA” in a nod to the Alamo City’s military presence.

The UIW community can take pride, Morris said, in the new camouflage end zones designed as a salute to the city’s military.

“This is a city that is rich in its military background,” he said. “We have a number of bases here that we’re proud of. For us to have Military City USA written on our field, this is our way to show our appreciation to our military.”

Dr. Brian Wickstrom, director of athletics, added that, “we just want to show our support for the military and all they do for this community.”

Meanwhile, Greg Seiler, CEO of Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, said they are proud to help provide a safer environment for UIW student athletes.

“This initiative is an extension of a larger Methodist Healthcare System effort to support student, community and professional athletes throughout San Antonio and surrounding areas,” Seiler said. “This sponsorship has special meaning for Metropolitan as we are able to align with another faith-based partner, UIW, to extend our mission of serving humanity to honor God.”

To honor the generosity of Methodist Healthcare System and Metropolitan Methodist Hospital and the partnership between the two organizations, the football field will carry the organization’s namesake.