For the fourth time since it was built in 1977, the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome will receive a new football playing surface.

Installation of a removable RealGrass Matrix turf system is under way and will be completed by April 25, in time for the annual NAU spring football game scheduled for April 26. It is the first removable RealGrass system to be installed in the United States.

“I am pleased to see that we are making progress on our task force’s recommendations for improving the athletics facilities on campus,” said NAU President John Haeger. “This is a major step in the right direction for addressing health and safety issues in the dome.”

Getting new turf installed in the Skydome was one of the priorities in a report released in January by the President’s Task Force on Athletics Facilities. Plans also call for outdoor recreational surfaces to be installed on campus.

The installation of the Skydome turf began April 7 by the Hellas Construction firm of Austin, Texas. The turf will cost close to $1 million, according to Skydome director Dave Brown.

“The new turf is the most advanced and exclusive available, and we are thrilled that it is being installed in the Skydome,” said head football coach Jerome Souers. “I am confident this facility supports a safer and more rewarding experience for those who compete on it.”

The project also has the blessing of the Arizona Cardinals administration and coaching staff. The Cardinals hired a turf consulting firm, CMX, to work with NAU and select the Matrix system.

After the spring game, the field will be rolled back up until preparations begin for the Cardinals’ camp in mid-July.

The new turf replaces the Astroturf installed in 2002 that was originally part of the outfield at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The surface had also been replaced in 1991.