Stadiums across the country have been switching between grass and synthetic turf since the late 1960s. It was first used in the Astrodome for Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros in 1966. Franklin Field, former home of the Philadelphia Eagles, was the first National Football League stadium to replace their grass with artificial turf.
According to the Synthetic Turf Council, “six thousand multi-use synthetic turf fields” are now in use. Half of the NFL teams play on turf fields, including the Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Super Bowl was recently played.
Synthetic turf uses synthetic fibers to feel and look like natural grass. Rubber from recycled tires is ground up and inlaid within the plastic grass giving it a springy facet.
In 1969, when turf fields were becoming popular, William Johnson of Sports Illustrated said, “natural conditions governing football will have passed from the hand of God into the rubber glove of the chemist.”
Regardless, the consensus at Christopher Newport University leans toward fields laid with grass instead of artificial turf. Eighteen students out of the twenty-one surveyed on Facebook claimed they preferred grass.
Junior Chloë Christoforou said she favored grass. “You get mad burns on turf,” she added.
According to junior Anthony Rieger, “Quidditch players generally prefer grass. [It’s] more cushion for when you get tackled to the ground.”
Freshman Victoria Groves said, “Turf hurts a lot more than your regular grass does. Plus you look a lot more intense when you have grass stains on your legs and uniform.”
There has been much debate over the safety, environmental, and maintenance aspects of synthetic turf over grass.
According to the University of Arkansas’ Division on Agriculture, artificial turf fields require rubber infill replacements, irrigation on hot days, chemical spray-downs, and organic matter removal when it begins to accumulate on the field. Consequently, infections such as MRSA have been found common amongst football players, and fingers are pointing to “turf burns” acquired on the field. Natural grass fields are also found to be safer for the environment, and additionally to the atmosphere by expelling oxygen. Furthermore, turf fields need replacing every eight to ten years, whereas grass fields do not.
In contrast to these criticisms, artificial turf makes for a durable playing field, while grass fields are prone to accumulate deep mud puddles post rain, and uneven surfaces where players had been practicing.
Sophomore and advocator of turf Nikki Kiwus said, “You can still play in the rain because there is obviously no mud, and you also don’t get grass stains so your uniforms are a little bit cleaner and it also cleans your shoes. Dirt can sometimes get really dry and create a lot of dust, but that never happens with turf.”
Turf fields do not require mowing, or “rest” after practice in order to grow. Turf fields provide for cleaner dirt-free uniforms, which cut the cost on laundry products. Furthermore, turf does not need to be kept alive, only maintained. The Astrodome ultimately switched to artificial turf because its grass was dying. Turf fields, while they do require irrigation during heated days, actually employ less water than that of grass fields.
Animals tend to stay away from turf fields because they don’t see it as potential burrowing grounds.
“Animals don’t know that there may be a sports field they can build burrows and create holes in. Clots of grass make the playing field uneven and that can sometimes be an issue,” said Kiwus.
However, Kiwus admits, there are a few disadvantages to turf.
“When I played soccer, the little pellets would get stuck in my cleats a lot and I would have to take a moment to take them off and get rid of the debris because it was a little uncomfortable and annoying,” she said.
She also claimed that turf fields would make a player’s feet hot and uncomfortable due to the absorption on the field.
Christopher Newport University has its very own turf field called The Captain’s Turf Field where Field Hockey and Lacrosse games are played. Unfortunately, once you go turf, there’s no turning back. Hopefully CNU doesn’t regret its decision to join the ranks of many other stadiums.