Thursday, September 14, 2006
Boise's blue field turns 20
BOISE, Idaho -- Twenty years after the Smurf Turf made its
debut, Boise State's blue football field remains an eye-catcher.
And that's exactly what Gene Bleymaier hoped for when he came up
with the idea of dying the artificial turf at Bronco Stadium.
"I guess that I'm the type of person that when I paint my house
I paint it a different color so the neighbors notice you did
something," said Bleymaier, in his 24th year as Boise State's
Bleymaier was the driving force behind Boise State's blue
football field, which has grown into a tourist attraction rivaling
potatoes for popularity in Idaho. Twenty years ago Wednesday, Boise
State played its first game on the field with a 74-0 rout of
Two decades later, the only non-green field is the subject of
rumors and myths, opposition complaints, and pride for Boise
"This is our house," linebacker Korey Hall said. "It is kind
of statement that is kind of cool and there's nothing else like
Having a pretty good football team helps, too. Since the first
incarnation of The Blue -- as the locals call it -- the Broncos are
110-30 at home, 40-2 since 2000.
Bleymaier brainstormed the idea flying home from the NCAA
convention in January 1986 and decided if the school was going to
pay $750,000 for a new playing surface, it was going to be blue.
"I was just thinking about what we could do and how
disappointed I was going to be if we just put in another green
field we had seen for 15 years," Bleymaier said.
With the idea in hand, Bleymaier's next trick was getting
university approval. He went straight to then president John Keiser
and presented his plan, highlighting that a blue field would give
the school some notoriety and an unusual home-field advantage.
Keiser went along with Bleymaier's idea and the pair kept the
plan quiet until the day it was announced to the public. This was
not a proposal the duo wanted available for debate.
"I knew that I couldn't talk about it because it would get
blown out of the water. I would not get the support," Bleymaier
said. "Really, it was kept pretty much between him and me until we
actually announced it. Then, of course, there was all sorts of
Not much was positive, initially. Many began referring to the
field as "Lake Bleymaier." On the night of the first game -- where
an orange and blue football was used for the kickoff -- then Idaho
Statesman columnist Jim Poore wrote, "The creature from the blue
lagoon did not pop out of the AstroTurf and gobble up both teams,
the cheerleaders and Buster Bronco, proving once and for all that
Lake Bleymaier is nothing more than a good promotional idea."
Poore was correct, it has been good promotion. The blue turf
gained a national audience when the school began hosting a bowl
game in 1997. More attention arrived when the Broncos' joined the
Western Athletic Conference in 2001, climbed into the Top 25 and
started playing regularly on national television.
Recruits are often lured by the chance to play on the blue turf.
Some opponents believe its an unfair advantage, saying the blue
turf and the Broncos' blue uniforms are camouflage. The field is
also the anchor of the school's "Beyond the Blue" marketing
campaign, highlighting Boise State's academics.
The current field is the third blue surface. Twenty years after
its debut, no one can envision a green field returning.
"I can't tell you how many times we get knocks on the door,
with people saying, 'I'm from out of town, I'm here for the
weekend, I've got to walk on the blue turf," Bleymaier said.