Artificial turf is making a comeback at Major League Baseball parks and National Football League stadiums, with new high-tech artificial surfaces ending a trend toward playing fields of natural grass.
A LawnStarter review found that by the 2020 season, two NFL franchises and two baseball teams will switch from natural surfaces to artificial ones. One team, baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, will make the change in time for the 2019 season The other three — The NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, and baseball’s Texas Rangers — will go to artificial turf for their 2020 seasons.
In the NFL, the Rams and Chargers will play their 2019 seasons in separate stadiums on natural turf. For 2020, they will move in together and share a $5 billion stadium expected to open for the 2020 season. It will feature artificial turf. That will mean 15 of the NFL’s 32 teams will be playing on synthetic turf as of the 2020 season.
For 2019, here is the NFL grass versus artificial turf lineup.
NFL stadiums, teams playing on artificial turf in 2019
- AT&T Stadium, Dallas Cowboys
- CenturyLink Field, Seattle Seahawks
- Ford Field, Detroit Lions
- Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots
- Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Colts
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons
- Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans Saints
- MetLife Stadium, New York Jets and Giants
- New Era Field Buffalo Bills
- NRG Stadium, Houston Texans
- Paul Brown Stadium, Cleveland Browns
- U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota Vikings
NFL stadiums, teams playing on natural turf in 2019
- Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs
- Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte Panthers
- Broncos Mile High Stadium, Denver Broncos
- Dignity Health Sports Park, Los Angeles Chargers
- FedEx Field, Washington Redskins
- FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Browns
- Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Dolphins
- Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
- Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers
- Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles
- Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, L.A. Rams
- M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens
- Nissan Stadium, Tennessee Titans
- Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland Raiders
- Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Soldier Field, Chicago Bears
- State Farm Stadium, Phoenix Cardinals
- TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville Jaguars
Baseball: Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers shifting to high-tech turf
Major League Baseball first rolled out its first path of plastic when the Houston Astrodome opened in 1966. Use of artificial turf peaked in the 1990s, when 10 baseball parks had it.
Its use waned because players feared injury on it, and no baseball park opened since the 1990s had it.
That streak is ending in 2019.
In Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks will install artificial turf for the 2019 season because the team decided the Phoenix sun and heat were too much for natural grass.
“The challenges with growing natural grass in our climate and stadium have been well documented and we have considered alternate solutions for many years,” Derrick Hall, D-backs president and CEO, told Lawnstarter.com.
“During the testing, all of the players had great things to say about the playing surface,” Hall said. “Over the past couple of weeks during spring training, our players have had the chance to test out the new grass on our agility field and one of the half-fields at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and have had great feedback.”
It will help the bottom line as well by saving 90 percent of the water that had been used to keep the natural turf growing, he said.
Their solution was B1K, a new high-tech turf developed by Shaw Sports Turf, headquartered in Calhoun, Ga. The turf is designed to mimic the bounce and feel of natural turf.
The synthetic surface has been installed already on spring training practice fields the Diamondbacks’ practice fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. The turf will be laid out at Phoenix’s Chase Field in time for the 2019 home opener April 5 against the Boston Red Sox.
Said Hall, “We decided to make this change because the technology developed by Shaw is the best in existence and will provide a consistent playing surface and benefits to our players on the field while enhancing our fan experience throughout the ballpark.”
Developing the new turf
Philipe Aldahir, director of turf research and innovation for Shaw, said the B1K turf got its name from the baseball term “Batting 1.000” and was more than two years in development.
One key ingredient: coconut fibers. Traditional artificial turf has an understory of rubber, which affects the bounce of the ball and the spring of the athletes. Shaw set out to match natural turf’s playing surface using, among other tools, a baseball launcher. “We set the speed and angle and shot out baseballs,” he said. They recorded the results, brought them back into the lab, and went to work trying to reproduce the natural bounce.
Like Thomas Edison going through hundreds of materials before finding the right light bulb filament, Shaw’s researchers went through hundreds of materials before the coconut eureka moment.
The result was a next-generation synthetic turf that he hopes will remove the “stigma” attached to playing on artificial turf.
Texas Rangers to follow suit in 2020
In Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers, Shaw’s B1K turf will be installed when the team’s new Globe Life Field opens for the 2020 season. The new, retractable-roof ballpark will replace Arlington Stadium, the open-air, naturally turfed home of the Rangers since the team moved there in 1971.
“From our first visit with the staff at Shaw Sports Turf, we were clear that a synthetic grass surface for Globe Life Field would only be a consideration if it could deliver the best surface in Major League Baseball and address the concerns we had related to impact on the players,” said Rob Matwick, Rangers Executive Vice President of Business Operations, in a Feb. 1, 2019, news release. “Months of detailed research that included extensive input from our Baseball Operations group from both a health and performance aspect have resulted in this decision.”
When the Rangers make their move, it will double the number of MLB teams playing on turf to four. The two existing baseball parks with synthetic playing fields are Tropicana Field in Tampa and Rogers Centre in Toronto, homes of the Rays and the Blue Jays.
Photos of NFL Stadiums with Natural Turf
Kansas City Chiefs (Kansas City, Mo.)
Image: YouTube/Burgers R Tasty
Bank of America Stadium
Carolina Panthers (Charlotte, N.C.)
Photo: Delaware North
Broncos Mile High Stadium
Denver Broncos (Denver, Colo.)
Photo: Flickr/Craig Hawkins
Dignity Health Sports Park
Los Angeles Chargers (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Photo: Flickr, courtesy Ytoyoda
Washington Redskins (Washington, D.C.)
Cleveland Browns (Cleveland)
Photo: Turner Construction
Hard Rock Stadium
Miami Dolphins (Miami)
Pittsburgh Steelers (Pittsburgh)
Green Bay Packers
Photo: Event USA
San Francisco 49ers
Photo: Levi’s Stadium
Lincoln Financial Field
Philadelphia Eagles (Philadelphia)
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles Rams (Los Angeles)
Photo: Facebook/Los Angeles Rams
M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore Ravens (Baltimore)
Tennessee Titans (Nashville, Tenn.)
Photo: Athletic Turf
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Photo: Flickr/Brian Cantoni
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Tampa, Fla.)
Photo: Foresite Group
Chicago Bears (Chicago)
Photo: Twitter/Soldier Field
State Farm Stadium
Arizona Cardinals (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Photo: Ephesus Lighting
TIAA Bank Field
Jacksonville Jaguars (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Photos of NFL stadiums with artificial turf
Dallas Cowboys (Dallas)
Photo: Mail Systems Management Association
Seattle Seahawks (Seattle)
Detroit Lions (Detroit)
Photo: Levy Restaurants
New England Patriots
Lucas Oil Field
Indianapolis Colts (Indianapolis)
Photo: Hunt Construction Group
New Orleans Saints (New Orleans)
New York Giants
New York Jets
Image: YouTube/Robin Fokker
Houston Texans (Houston)
New Era Field
Photo: Twitter/Buffalo Bills
Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati Bengals (Cincinnati, Ohio)
U.S. Bank Stadium
Minnesota Vikings (Minneapolis)
Top photo: TheRichest.com