Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium are legendary. It is consistently ranked as one of the loudest and feared places for visiting teams to play.
None of this could happen without the more then 120 yards of Celebration Bermuda grass that makes up the stage for LSU football.
As LSU football coach Les Miles once said, “the grass in Tiger Stadium tastes best.”
Wardell Antoine has been part of the team that paints the field since 1981. “I still get a rush when we are painting for the big games,” Antoine said. “I got butterflies painting the yard lines for the Alabama game this year.”
Antoine’s main job is to paint all of the white that you see on the field, from the yard lines, to the hash marks, media areas, etc. He says his favorite part is painting the long yard lines every five yards.
The field at Tiger Stadium is one of the only stadiums in college football to use “H” style goal posts, instead of the “Y” or “slingshot” style goal posts.
LSU received special permission from the NCAA before the 1993 game against Tulane to use the “H” posts. The team uses the opening under the north end zone goal posts to run out of the tunnel and onto the field.
Another unique aspect is how Tiger Stadium labels every five yards. Traditionally, football stadiums only label the yard lines that end in “0.”
Eric Fasbender is in charge of making sure all eight football fields on campus are maintained. Six of the fields (Tiger Stadium, three practice fields, U-High, and the Tiger Marching Band field) have to be painted every week. The other two are turf.
“Taking care of Tiger Stadium is surprisingly easy compared to other fields,” Fasbender said. “We are only out there 4-6 hours at a time. All we have to do is mow it and paint it. It’s not like Alex Box Stadium where we have to deal with clay and artificial turf on the same field as real grass.”
The crew does the majority of their painting on Wednesdays, and then repaints it on Fridays. Overall, the field uses between 120 and 130 gallons of paint per week.
“We used to only paint it on Fridays, but a couple of years ago we decided to paint twice. It makes the colors pop more on game day. I’m sure that fans can see a difference from a few years ago,” said Fasbender.
Fasbender believes that Tiger Stadium would consistently be in contention for the field of the year award were it not for the Bayou Country Superfest.
The Superfest pays for Tiger Stadium to get a new field every year, due to the 100,000-ton stage destroying the grass. In order to be eligible for the award, the field has to be in place for two years.
Probably the most impressive part about Fasbender’s job is the eye of the tiger on the 50-yard line. “The way the eye is going to look depends on how much Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew I’ve had that day,” Fasbender said.
Fasbender draws the eye every week free hand.
It is the only part of the field that does not use a stencil. “Logos need to look the same,” Fasbender said. “We always make sure the LSU and SEC logos are correct.
“But the eye is not a logo, it’s a symbol of the Tigers.”
Every few years, the field makes a minor adjustment. For example, the 150th anniversary logo of LSU was on the field for the 2010 season.
The most recent major change was in 2005 when LSU changed the end zones from the large block letters to the “geaux” font.
Ronnie Haliburton, senior associate athletic director for facilities and grounds, was the one who asked Miles if they could make the change. He works with athletics to approve any aesthetic changes made to the field.
“The playing surface has to be superb,” Haliburton said. “Your resume is on center stage every week. “This isn’t something that nobody will notice on an old TV watching CBS. Today with HDTV and 3D televisions, we can’t afford to make a mistake.”
Haliburton played tight end for LSU from 1986-89.
Currently, Haliburton and Fasbender are looking forward to the spring game on April 20. Fasbender said the spring game is their chance to experiment with new techniques.
Haliburton says typically they will try to put the logo of a national championship or an SEC championship on the field for the spring game. This year, he says they are just giving them a field to play on.