The Comeback Of Grass
The expense, the effect of weather, and the proliferation of indoor stadiums all seemed to threaten the future of grass in major sporting stadiums. However technology has struck again and grass is making a comeback.
With the advent of artifical turf, many thought that the grass athletic field might someday become obsolete. The expense of upkeep, the effect of weather on the playing surface, and the proliferation of indoor stadiums all seemed to threaten the future of grass in major sporting events. However technology has struck again and grass is making a comeback. This paper will tell the how and the why of this comeback by nature over artifical surfaces.
While artifical turf seemed to be the cure all for the big time athletic community, i.e. professional sports franchises and colleges, there were some down sides to this miracle. The surfaces altered the way some of the games were played. For example in baseball a high hopper could now bounce overheads easily. Other problems followed that had a less direct effect on the game. The effect of heat on artifical surfaces made them so hot during summer baseball that many of them required watering to cool them to playable levels. The turf itself caused injury through what were in effect rug burns and zipper cuts (artifical turf is for the most part an outdoor carpet and the strip of turf were joined with zippers). Then there was the problem of injuries.
In football a new group of injuries developed as a direct result of the use of artifical turf. "Turf toe" was one of a new group of injuries that included an increase in career ending knee and shoulder injuries that were a direct result of the hard foundation used to support turf. Many athletes called for a return to grass, but while athletic administrators were concerned about injuries and altering of games, the effect of weather on game surfaces and the cost of up keep kept the turf in place. Then a breakthrough occurred.
At Purdue University they developed a system called Prescription Athletic Turf. This combined the a total concept of looking at the athletic field as a system. The field was designed using layers of clay, gravel, sand, and plastic along with drainage pipes and tiles connected to a gravity fed pumping system. The system was simple, relatively inexpensive, and assured the maintenance of good field conditions in the most extreme weather conditions. The addition of heating elements allow the melting and draining of snow and ice. This was a major breakthrough and lead to a new design for stadium field layout and maintenance.
I didn't take long for these new designed natural grass field systems to take off. They had many of the cost advantages of artifical surfaces and the injury profiles of natural grass. Many teams both professional and college began to explore the possibilities and replaced their artifical surface with these grass systems. Stadiums in Denver, Kansas City, and several Universities began to either install or replace artifical surfaces with these systems.
Today finds us looking as successful experiments with grass turf in indoor stadiums. The World Cup Soccer games played in the US at the Pontiac Silver Dome in 1994 were played on grass designed to thrive indoors. However, the new grass systems are not a cure-all.
Demands for multi-use stadiums still causes some stadium administrators to favor artifical turf. For quick changes, and events like concerts and tractor pulls, artifical turf still is favored. Yet with the breakthroughs made by science everyday, who can say there won't be another grass comeback in the near future.