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Near West


The Near West Fields – the first project of the Master Plan – are now open for play. This is the first Rec Sports outdoor facility with synthetic turf, meaning fewer cancelled games, longer seasons, and more opportunities for campus to PLAY HARD. GET FIT. LIVE WELL. outside.

The fields are lined (painted) for a variety of sports, including baseball, softball, flag football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and more. Featuring more economical and environmentally conscious options for lighting and turf, we are excited to welcome students and members to this state-of-the-art facility, marking the beginning of a bright future for recreation on the UW-Madison campus.

Facility Features

LED Lighting feature
LED Lighting feature
  • Easily configurable for flag football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and more
  • Baseball and softball fields with backstops and dugouts
  • Perimeter fence, gated entry points, concrete walkways, and landscaping
  • Dedicated scoreboards for each field
  • Batting cage with equipment available for rental

Synthetic Turf System


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  • Free of heavy metal and Polycyclic Anomatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Recyclable
  • Reduces field temperatures up to 70%
  • Odor-free

4Nx Fiber

  • State-of-the-art new generation monofilament
  • 400 micron thickness improves memory and resilience
  • Two-tone color provides a natural look
  • Up to 16,000 Dtex (linear density)
  • Semi-concave structure with reinforced asymmetric spines

Fine-Tuned Underlayment

  • Provides consistent resiliency across entire playing field
  • Improved G-max values, guaranteed over the life of the field
  • Improves Head Injury Criterion (HIC) values, which helps reduce concussive injuries
  • Acts as a unique drainage layer
  • Made of 95% post-consumer recycled content


  • Most playable surface for multiple activities
  • First-ever FIFA 2-star rated turf system in the world
  • Allows athletes to move in acceleration, rotation, extension, and torsion with a performance similar to that obtained on natural grass
  • Ecofill does not migrate due to play or weather
  • Unaltered performance over time
  • Exceptional ball to surface interaction
  • Higher density fill resulting in lower bounce and lower static electricity
  • Non-toxic
Mondo FTS Turf System Layers - Kiefer USA
Monto FTS Turf System with Ecofill

Lighting System

Musco TLC LED Lighting
Musco Total Light Control LED Technology


  • 172 LED fixtures
  • Average of 30.8 footcandles (minimum 20, maximum 54)
    • Compared to previous flood lighting average of 15.6 footcandles (minimum 5, maximum 25)


  • Low cost of operation (expected savings of more than $20,000 over a 10-year period)
  • Shielded structure to reduce light pollution and glare beyond property line
  • Better for night sky with bright, uniform light directed to the field and not spilling above it or outside of field dimensions
  • Designed to be maintenance-free for 25 years
  • Instant on/off capability (previous metal halide lights could take up to 15 minutes to fully turn on)


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Why synthetic turf and not natural grass?

With synthetic turf fields, we are able to meet the needs of our students in providing recreational and sport club opportunities on a consistent and reliable basis. Over the past several years, at least 40% of Rec Sports-scheduled outdoor events and programs have been canceled due to wet and unplayable natural grass field conditions. We have seen a significant increase in interest from our students and sport clubs to participate in outdoor recreational opportunities.

Additionally, without having enough lighted field space on campus, it was impossible to spread out activities to avoid worn-out areas on the natural grass. We have seen a significant growth in interest from our students to participate in outdoor recreational opportunities and sport clubs to stay active and physically fit.

Installing synthetic turf was the only viable option to keep up with demand and to be able to schedule multiple uses of the fields on a regular basis. The synthetic turf field will be able to drain water quickly and safely without damaging the surface, and will extend playable seasons without the need to irrigate or use chemicals or fertilizers.

When will the facility open?

University Recreation Fields – Near West is now open! Click here for hours.

When will turf be available for rental?

Now! Please visit Reservations & Rentals page for more information!

How do I reserve the turf?

As is the case for all Rec Sports facilities and outdoor spaces, the turf field can be reserved for special events by student organizations, university departments or community groups. To rent space, fill out our Special Events Request Form online. On this site, you will also find policies, procedures, requirements, and pricing.

Where is the main entry to the facility?

The main entry to the facility is on the north side of Observatory Drive, west of the Natatorium. Please see the map of the facility for a visual.

What are the expected hours of operation?

The facility will tentatively have the following hours of operation (weather and safety permitting):

  • Open Recreation: 6am – 4pm
  • Sport Club Practices: 4pm – 6pm
  • Intramural Sports/Open Rec: 6pm – 12am

The facility is expected to close for winter weather months between the Thanksgiving holiday and March 15 (weather dependent).

Why fence the fields?

Fencing is required for several reasons. First, we have had consistent problems on the existing fields losing soccer balls, baseballs, softballs, footballs, frisbees, etc. into the bioswales planted around the south and east sides of the fields. Fencing will keep the majority of the balls on the field and out of the stormwater management system and bioswales. Second, the fencing allows us to control access to the fields during special events and tournaments. In some cases, these may be ticketed events. The majority of the time, the fields will be open for daytime pick-up game activities by students, UW-Madison affiliates, and other community members just as they historically have been.

Is synthetic turf safe to play on?

Yes. In many ways, synthetic turf is safer than natural grass because of the uniform playing surface, instant water drainage, and consistent footing. Additionally, the Mondo FTS Turf System with Ecofill has industry-leading G-max values. The facility has been tested not to exceed 145 g’s over the lifespan of the system.

What is the environmental impact of synthetic turf to wildlife and Lake Mendota?

Lake Mendota and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve were at the forefront of our planning and review of this project. The Near West Playfields will not have a negative impact on wildlife or the surrounding area because the Ecofill is designed not to migrate – meaning it will stay in place and not move into the drainages leading into the lake. Additionally, the Ecofill is heavy metal free, free of Polycyclic Anomatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and recyclable. Since the artificial turf does not require irrigation, the overall drainage into Lake Mendota will be greatly reduced. For more information, please review the Environmental Impact Assessment. Finally, Mondo Ecofill passed the European toy toxicity test – EN71-3, affirming there will be no health implications if it were to be ingested, making it the only turf system infill worldwide to pass this test.

Which lines are permanent on the turf?

This site will be the destination for several organized sports. Flag football and one soccer field have full permanent lines on the field. Soccer, baseball, softball, and lacrosse have some permanent lines or key markings on the field that can be completed with synthetic turf paint as necessary. Ultimate frisbee can also be played on the flag football fields.

Which Intramural Sports will be programmed on the fields?

Intramural soccer, flag football, softball, and ultimate frisbee are scheduled to be played on the Near West Playfields. We also plan to offer new intramural sports, so stay tuned!

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Do I need a Wiscard to use the facility?

We recommend participants bring their Wiscard, as our staff may periodically ask you to show your Wiscard. Our goal is to ensure that only current students and Rec Sports members are using the facility.

How do I check out sports equipment?

Our staff will be present during open recreation hours to check out sports equipment, including balls and batting cage equipment. In order to check out equipment, you must present your Wiscard to the staff member, who will assist you. You will be responsible for any unreturned equipment. Late or damage fees may also apply.

When do the lights shut off?

The lights are scheduled to remain on during scheduled programming such as Intramural Sports, Sport Clubs, or special events. The lights will shut off by midnight at the latest.

Will there be bicycle or moped parking near the field?

Yes. Since bicycles are not allowed on the synthetic turf field, there are newly installed bicycle racks around the perimeter of the field, near access gates. Moped parking can be found directly to the south of the main entrance to the facility. Additionally, both moped and bike parking can be found south of the Nat main entrance.

Will there be seating in the facility?

Yes, around the baseball and softball backstops, participants will find dugouts with available seating. There will also be portable bleachers available for events.

Can I bring tents onto the turf?

Tents or other equipment requiring stakes are not permitted on the turf. Tents that can be secured with water barrels or other approved weights are allowed.

Can I wear cleats on the turf?

Rubber or plastic cleats are permitted on the turf. Metal cleats are not allowed, except for approved UW-Madison Club Baseball events.

Can I have food or drinks on the field?

Water in sealable and shatterproof containers is permitted within the facility, but no other food or drink is allowed.

Are kites allowed on the turf?

Due to the close proximity to the UW Hospital and the need to medevac patients, kites are not permitted on Near West Fields.

Are drones allowed on the turf?

In accordance with UW-Madison Policies and Guidelines and FAA requirements, drones are not allowed on Near West Fields.

Can I bring my pet?

Service animals are permitted on the Near West Fields. No other pets are allowed on the fields.


For more information, please contact John Horn, Director of the Division of Recreational Sports, at