Anchorage sports teams will have another indoor field to play on by the end of this month.
Artificial turf was installed Monday at Sullivan Arena, and flag football teams will begin playing games there soon, according to an arena manager.
"Our first scheduled use is March 21," said Greg Spears, the general manager of SMG of Alaska, which runs Sullivan Arena and several other city-owned properties.
The turf was installed inside the hockey rink's dasher boards and measures 100 feet by 200 feet. It can expand beyond the dasher boards if desired, Spears said.
Spears said the field will rent for $150 to $200 an hour, depending on the time of day.
"Football, rugby, soccer – it's got so much potential," he said. "We'll be reaching out to all the soccer clubs and rugby clubs."
The turf gives teams a choice beyond The Dome, the popular indoor facility in south Anchorage that was closed for nearly a year after its air-supported roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in January 2017.
The two facilities will compete for some of the same business, but Sullivan doesn't have an indoor running track like The Dome, nor will it be available for softball or baseball — batted balls could damage the scoreboard that hangs from the arena's ceiling, Spears said.
It's also unlikely to have batting cages, Spears said. The Dome's batting cages, which weren't immediately available when the South Anchorage facility reopened in January, are ready for use now, according to Curtis Penney, CEO of The Dome.
The addition of turf is one of several upgrades being made at Sullivan, an aging facility that lost nearly $600,000 in revenue in 2016.
The turf and other projects – among them, a portable stage and new emergency lighting and camera systems – are being paid for by a 2012 grant from the state legislature.
Sullivan's artificial turf isn't the same as the turf in place at The Dome and at several outdoor football fields in Anchorage.
It comes from the same manufacturer – FieldTurf – but it's called EasyField and it consists of 4-by-5-foot interlocking pieces rather than one giant carpet.
The turf has a pad but it doesn't have infill like the other turfs in town.
"You'll feel a difference," said Donny Jones, a regional vice president for FieldTurf who was in Anchorage for Monday's installation. "This field doesn't have any sand and rubber infill. The turf and the pad here in Sullivan Arena feel a little firmer but it meets all the safety standards for rugby and football and soccer and all that."
Jones said his company installed the new FieldTurf at The Dome and has also installed outdoor fields at several Anchorage schools.
Sullivan is the first place in Alaska to use EasyField, he said. "It's the single biggest installation in North America with this moveable turf."
The turf at Sullivan is movable, allowing it to co-exist with the arena's sheet of ice.
It takes about 12 hours and several people to remove or install it, Jones said. That makes possible for the turf to be available even during hockey season if Sullivan Arena managers choose to make it a year-round feature.