Category Archives: Athletics

NFL Field Managers Symposium Hosts Sod Producers

The 2020 NFL Field Managers Symposium invited eight sod farms who regularly produce sod for NFL teams in-season to participate in a round-table discussion. It was a two-hour, interactive session, teaming the sod producers with 125 field managers and staffers. Three members of the NFL Team Operations Department also attended.

With input from field managers as well as the sod producers, they covered a broad range of topics, including sod farm certification, on-field events, growing scheduling, harvesting and installation timing, transportation, scheduling and the most important factor, communication. While each of the sod producers has developed their own proprietary product, and those products differ in the grass species and cultivars, and vary in production methods from grown on plastic to grown in the field, they all face similar issues and challenges—and have the same objective—a safe, game-ready field that meets NFL expectations.

Tony Leonard, Director of Grounds for the Philadelphia Eagles says that in-season sodding impacts nearly all the NFL field managers. Leonard says, “Even the synthetic turf field managers have done it at some point if they have hosted international soccer in their stadium. Installing ready-to-play natural grass over synthetic turf has its own set of challenges with keeping newly laid natural grass sod alive indoors.”

There is no margin for error with the NFL field. As Leonard said, “Because of our partnership with the sod grower, we trust them to provide us with a safe field in excellent condition to play an NFL game.”

The eight sod farms and their attending representative were: James Betts for Tuckahoe Turf Farms – New Jersey; Chad Price for Carolina Green Corp. – North Carolina; Jonathan Holland for Precision Turf, LLC – Georgia; Donald Thomas for Quality Sod – Florida; Jimmy Fox for Evergreen Turf – Arizona; Joe Wilkins for Green Valley Turf Co. – Colorado; Greg Dunn for West Coast Turf – California; and Marty Schaafsma for Schaafsma Sod Farm – Illinois.

For more information on this story, check out the current issue of Turf News. To join TPI and receive a free Turf News subscription please visit https://www.turfgrasssod.org/join-tpi/

NFL Groundskeeper Tony Leonard
Tony Leonard, Director of Grounds for the Philadelphia Eagles

CHASE FIELD GETS NATURAL GRASS FOR CHEEZ-IT BOWL

college football

CHASE FIELD GETS NATURAL GRASS OVERLAY FOR CHEEZ-IT BOWL

90,000 sq. ft. of West Coast Turf Bandera Bermuda Sod Put on Top of New Artificial Turf for December 27th Football Game

Phoenix, AZ……The Cheez-It Bowl is ready for the Air Force Falcons vs the Washington State Cougars on December 27th, on a new natural turfgrass field.

Just last week, West Coast Turf installed 90,000 square feet of their 1” thick overseeded Bandera Bermuda sod directly on top of Chase Field’s new artificial turf baseball field. Installation took 2 days, and a layer of polyethylene plastic sheeting was put in between the artificial surface and the natural sod. The sod is thick-cut and weighs approximately 15 lbs. per sq. ft. so that rooting will not be a factor with such a short time frame. The weight will give the sod its stability.

Chase Field’s artificial surface is one that involves concrete curbing so that using artificial turf to cover the baseball skins was not an option for a football field conversion. Sod was the obvious solution. This is not the first time West Coast Turf has been called in to place natural grass over artificial turf.  They have done the same process several times at Quest/CenturyLink Field in Seattle.  West Coast Turf has also regularly put natural grass “overlay” fields on top of other natural fields when time constraints do not allow for removal between important games.

Following the Cheez-It Bowl, the natural grass will be removed and partially donated to Cartwright Elementary School in Phoenix.

A link to photos of the installation can be found here.

West Coast Turf had been the natural grass supplier to Bank One Ballpark, Chase Field, and the Arizona Diamondbacks since the inception of the team in 1998. They have also supplied the NFL with eight Super Bowl fields from California to Florida, including Super Bowls XXVII, XXIX, XXX, XXXII, XXXVII, XXXVIII, XXXIX, and 50.

West Coast Turf is a full-service sod, stolonization and hydroseeding company with 5 offices throughout California and Arizona, and headquarters in Palm Desert, CA.  West Coast Turf grows more than 30 varieties of natural grass. For more information please visit www.westcoastturf.com or www.facebook.com/westcoastturf.

Raiders Maintain the Tradition of Football with Natural Grass Field

Since November 2017, the Oakland Raiders have been hard at work building their home stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their field surface of choice is natural grass, driven by the insistence of Raiders owner Mark Davis.

“That’s the tradition of football,” says Tom Blanda, SVP of Stadium Development and Operations for the Raiders, in an episode of the Raiders video series, From the Ground Up. “You walk out on the field and you breathe in, and you smell real grass. That can’t be replicated with an artificial field.”

The Raiders have taken great care to bring this tradition to life. This year, the field maintenance crew has been testing different turf grasses on-site to determine which works best in the Nevada climate, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal interview. The 9,500-ton field will sit on a sliding field tray that will move in and out of the stadium between games so that Allegiant Stadium can accommodate UNLV games and non-football events. At 4 feet deep, the tray will hold layers of roots and sand, irrigation and drainage utilities, and electrical heaters to keep the sod healthy year-round.

The Raiders’ natural grass field highlights an important decision that athletic teams need to make for the success of their players. According to data from the NFL between 2012 and 2016, 82.4% of NFL players think that synthetic turf is more likely to contribute to injury. Researchers of the study found that noncontact injury rates to the lower body were between 27% and 103% higher on synthetic turf than natural grass. The full case study is available within our TPI resources.

In addition to safety considerations, athletic teams choose natural grass for the values of tradition and player experience, as voiced by the Raiders leaders.

Follow the Raiders stadium build in the video series From the Ground Up, which shares behind-the-scenes stories of the stadium builders, technologies and milestones. We can’t wait to see the team take the field!

raiders stadium

The Growing Waste Problem of Synthetic Turf Fields

plastic turf

What happens to a synthetic turf athletic field when it’s time for replacement? You can find them sitting on vacant plots of land across the country, according to an investigation by the York Daily Record and York Sunday News publications.

“Used artificial turf is expected to produce 1 million to 4 million tons of waste in the next 10 years, and it has nowhere to go, according to solid waste industry analysts,” the journalists report.

The article discusses the difficulties of recycling or disposing of synthetic turf. The only recycling facility in the world that can fully separate the parts is in Denmark, and bringing turf to landfills is an expensive and heavy lift (literally). Due to a lack of regulation and government oversight, old turf ends up in empty lots, backyards, public spaces and private land. The crumb rubber and chemicals in turf also present potential safety and health concerns for the surrounding environment.

Kyla Bennett, science and policy director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says the best solution is to use natural grass.

This problem highlights a consequence of using a synthetic, disposable groundcover for our athletic fields. Unlike synthetic turf, natural grass is a sustainable plant with an endless lifespan.

For more information, click Read More for the full article from the York Daily Record

Artificial Fields at UNC hit 154.4 degrees F on 87 degree day

Athletic field managers from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) held their annual meetings at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill this week and TPI member Erin Wilder from Sod Solutions shared this graphic on Twitter. Synthetic turf fields were 60 degrees hotter than natural grass and 10 degrees hotter than asphalt! Which would you rather have your kids playing on?? #KeepItREAL

TPI Gets Involved at Local Level

Local CBS news coverage of TPI's involvement in natural grass field removal

In early 2019, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced plans to remove the natural grass playing surface in Kenan Memorial Stadium and replace it with synthetic turf. As one could imagine, this decision did not sit well with sod producers in North Carolina and one of them decided to reach out to TPI to take action. Keaton Vandemark, retired TPI member of Vandemark Sod Farms in eastern NC reached out to me to discuss contacting UNC officials regarding this decision. I wrote the letter below (Suz, see other attachment) and sent it to the Chairman of the UNC Board of Governors as well as the Director of UNC Campus Health, the UNC Director of Athletics, the NC Department of Agriculture Commissioner, a former NC Speaker of the House, and the UNC Board of Trustees. I also worked with Mr. Vandemark to contact local news agencies to get this story in front of the public, and it was highlighted on the local CBS evening news. This story also made the rounds on social media where it was shared by the current president of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) and others.

UNC’s athletic director responded to our letter directly, and said that they were moving forward with the synthetic field installation despite our concerns. While we didn’t win this battle, we at least got UNC’s attention and made them aware of the increased risk to their athletes on artificial turf. If TPI can ever assist any of our members with local issues in your area, please let us know. We are happy to promote natural grass and fight to keep our kids and athletes safe everywhere we can. New TPI publications on recent NFL and NCAA player injury research can be found in the Resources tab of TPI’s new website www.TurfgrassSod.org.

The official version of TPI’s letter is attached here and can also be seen in the 2019 July/August issue of Turf News.

Click on the link below to see the full story on CBS 17.com/sports.

Parents push for warning on playgrounds, synthetic turf in heat

Original article published by Evan Lambert, Fox 5 DC

Worried about your child’s health on synthetic turf in hot weather? You’re not the only one! News channel Fox 5 in Washington, D.C. published an article below highlighting parents concerns on D.C. playgrounds where daytime temperatures on these plastic surfaces reached between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information and the original article, click the link below.

Joint Bid wins 2026 World Cup for US, Canada, and Mexico

Original article by Tim Hackett, SI.com

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada, and Mexico as a result of the winning bid coming from these three countries. This will be the first World Cup held in North America since the U.S hosted in 1994. Further details, including host sites, are still being worked out but this is great news for soccer fans and natural grass sod producers in the United States and Canada. The original story from Sports Illustrated can be found at the link below:

Razorbacks Plan Return to Natural Grass

Original article written by Anthony Reyes, WholeHogSports.com

The Arkansas Razorbacks are going natural! Or, should I say returning! After 10 years of synthetic turf, the Arkansas Razorbacks football program will be installing real grass for the 2019 football season and beyond. New head coach Chad Morris goes on record in this article stating his preference for natural grass and we couldn’t agree more! For the original article posted at WholeHogSports.com click on the link below.

#KeepItREAL