Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel is sick of talking about the turf.
He understands, though, why Faurot Field’s new FieldTurf excites so many people.
The artificial grass surface, installed this summer, is one of the newer and more popular field surfaces for professional and college fields.s
“It’s great. It’s excellent. But we knew it was,” Pinkel said. “We’ve played on it before. We talked to people all over the country that have it. They rave about it.”
FieldTurf replaced grass, which had been on Faurot Field since 1995. The process began in April and finished in late June.
John Gilman, CEO of the FieldTurf corporation, said the goal of the surface is to replicate playing on grass.
“From the side it looks like actual grass,” Gilman said. “It allows the same kind of foot speed, your cleats get the same traction and there is no stickiness like artificial turf used to have.”
FieldTurf achieves this goal by using polyethylene and polypropylene fibers as the “grass.” These plastic compounds are resilient to chemicals and moisture. These fibers are then affixed to a mixture of silica sand and ground rubber, which is partly composed of old Nike shoes. This mixture holds each fiber in place, much like soil does for natural grass.
This gives FieldTurf the aesthetics and feel of natural grass and alleviates problems attributed to artificial turf in the past.
“There is no sinking into the pad,” Gilman said. “If a kid’s foot begins to sink and then he tries to cut, or gets hit, he’s finished; his (anterior cruciate ligament) is gone. That will still happen with FieldTurf, just like it happens on grass, but it won’t as much as with traditional Astroturf.”
Sophomore tailback Damien Nash tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in September 2002. In the spring, Nash said his knee felt better when he practiced outside on the Tigers’ grass fields instead of on their indoor turf surface. During preseason, MU has practiced in the mornings on Faurot Field and Nash said FieldTurf doesn’t affect his knee.
“It’s fast, it’s a lot faster,” Nash said. “The only problem is, it gets really hot when it’s hot. Other than that, it’s good.”
The installation cost MU $750,000. MU officials involved in the decision process said they believe the new surface is worth it.
“It was important to see what we would be spending on alternatives,” said Gene McArtor, MU’s director of project management. “When we were finished we determined that it was favorable in terms of FieldTurf.”
Possible alternatives included continuous maintenance of the natural surface to finding another spot for practice.
“It was a combination of reasons, economic and playability,” McArtor said. “Also, we had a need to find a location where the football team could practice at night, and that would require lighting the practice fields.”
MU officials also said they like the options that FieldTurf allows.
FieldTurf cuts down on regular upkeep. At Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play, the field has to be resodded two to three times per year. Entertainment events are a possible attraction in Memorial Stadium’s future, as well as year-round football practice.
Pinkel said the surface extends the Tigers’ options.
“It lets us be able to play out in the weather, whether it’s snow or rain or anything else,” Pinkel said. “Before we had to go inside because we were worried about ruining the grass field.”
In 1999, Nebraska became the first Division I program to install FieldTurf. John Ingram, director of athletic facilities at Nebraska, said the benefits have outweighed the costs.
“It’s a tremendous advantage to be able to practice on it 24/7.” Ingram said. “There is no more walking by the stadium and thinking, ‘Wow, that will be really nice come game day’ for the players. It was the best decision we could have made.”