Company files complaint

By Amy Goldhagen and Ken Goze

Safe Play Inc., one of the four companies which bid to replace NIU and Illinois State University stadium turf has lodged a formal complaint against the Board of Regents.

Safe Play, which submitted the lowest of four bids, charges the Board of Regent’s selection process unfairly eliminated Safe Play from consideration.

Bill Paschal, a Safe Play representative, said his bid was not accepted despite the fact it was $400,000 lower than Astro Turf’s selected bid of more than a million dollars to replace both fields.

“They (Regents) could have bought three fields with a better product for the price they paid for two. It’s just a rip off, that’s all,” Paschal said.

Astroturf’s bid was unanimously approved at the Regents Feb. 14 teleconference. The Board governs NIU, ISU at Normal and Sangamaon State University at Springfield.

NIU’s total cost for Astro Turf will be $665,000, about $8.45 per square foot.

Safe Play hired a lawyer and filed a formal complaint to Regency Chancellor Roderick Groves Feb. 16.

“We take any complaint very seriously, but as of now I know of nothing to indicate the selection process was inappropriate,” Groves said.

Super Turf does not use the type of material specified by the universities and the process by which the turf is held together does not meet the criteria specified by NIU and ISU, Groves said.

A committee formed under NIU Materials Management Director Donald Widick and James Harder, vice president of business and operations, established specifications for the turf, Groves said.

Paschal said NIU’s criteria were written around the knitted turf, offered only through Astro Turf.

Safe Play’s product, Super Turf, is tufted and made from oil- based fibers, making it both longer lasting and safer than Astro Turf which is made from knitted nylon fibers, Paschal said.

Super Turf is 20 percent more dense and dyed before it is assembled, making it more resistant to sun damage, the main cause of turf deterioration, Paschal said.

NIU Head Football Coach Jerry Pettibone said he was very surprised that a complaint had been filed.

“NIU’s criteria is the most complete study I’ve ever seen. I have no doubt that Astro Turf was the best choice,” he said.

While the eight-year-old Astro Turf now in Huske Stadium is very worn, Pettibone said recent improvements in density and drainage make Astro Turf best turfing for this part of the country.

Pashcal said Widick would not explain why the specifications were designed as they were. “You didn’t have knitted goods,” Widick told Paschal.

However, when Paschal questioned Widick’s knowledge of turf Widick allegedly responded, “I don’t even know what Super Turf is.”

Both Widick and Harder were unavailable for comment.