Boise State

Boise State volunteers working as blue turf ambassadors

Sharon Hatler of Meridian and her children Emily, 6, and Katy, 4, absorb the blueness of Albertsons Stadium while visiting the turf with family from Texas on Wednesday.
Sharon Hatler of Meridian and her children Emily, 6, and Katy, 4, absorb the blueness of Albertsons Stadium while visiting the turf with family from Texas on Wednesday.

Before visitors get a close-up look at Idaho’s most famous landmark, they’re met by friendly faces who aim to play a small part in a lasting impression.

Since May, a group of retired Boise State fans has served as ambassadors at the Allen Noble Hall of Fame. They field questions about the famed blue field, Albertsons Stadium, the university, the city, you name it. Before or after visitors check out the turf, they converse with the members of the group, who keep diligent track of where their visitors hail from.

“We just thought it’s another face to the university, and help promote the most prominent thing we’re known for,” said Dave Croft, who worked alongside Randy Whitaker on Wednesday.

By their count, since the volunteers began setting up shop May 16, nearly 3,500 people from nearly a dozen countries and 49 states (come see us, Vermont!) have visited the turf. That’s all during the week, typically between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., not including the frequent student-led campus tours.

“Most of us don’t have anything better to do,” Whitaker said with a laugh. “People used to be on their own when they’d come through, or the secretary would have to guide them out, so we’re here to help with all that, too.”

This time-lapse video from July 2015 shows the famous blue turf at Boise State University's Albertsons Stadium turning green for a Basque Soccer Friendly soccer match. Crews transitioned the field to real grass in 10 days leading up to the match b

The idea for the group originated a few years ago in the weekly Friday “lunch bunch” that Croft attends with a few other boosters. The list of volunteers is around 25.

“There’s a publicity giant right there, that was kind of idle, so we all thought we’d help however we could,” said Don Moe, one of the group’s primary organizers. “We kept hitting a wall, but when Curt (Apsey) came back as athletic director, I ran into him and he thought it would be a good idea. It’s been a win-win so far.”

There have been fewer questions about the turf than expected — the primary ones are about the stadium’s size, Boise State’s enrollment, or mostly, about Boise itself. Plenty of parents bring potential students around, and many are considering moving to the Treasure Valley, so the retirees who have lived here for decades have plenty of answers.

Mike Kelly, from Bucks County, Pa., took his wife, Annie, to see the turf Wednesday. It was his second time checking it out, and her first. The couple is hoping to move to Boise next year.

Her quick opinion of the turf: “It’s beautiful.”

Croft and Whitaker were more than happy to help the visitors remember Boise.

“Affable guys, perfect for the job,” Kelly said.

Moe jokes that his group “acts like a little chamber of commerce.” A table with fliers for Boise State and other area attractions is next to the guestbook that visitors sign before or after checking out the turf on the patio outside the hall of fame. Though the general public isn’t allowed on the turf, the ambassadors offer to take photos. If they can help persuade just a few students to attend Boise State, they feel their work is worth it.

“We had a student come up from California with her mom, looking at colleges, and they said their next stop was Moscow,” Croft said. “I tried to tell them they didn’t need to bother to make that drive.”

It didn't take long for hundreds of kids toting baskets to find and secure over 10,000 Easter eggs on the blue turf of Albertsons Stadium at Boise State University Saturday March 26, 2016. The field was divided into four age groups for the annual

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_Southorn