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.