Monday, December 7, 2009

The Saga of the Soldier Field Turf

Soldier Field looked terrible yesterday.

I'm not sure how I missed this, but Soldier Field was resodded in time for yesterday's game against the Rams. It cost the Chicago Park District a cool $250,000. I'm sure the grass is of sufficent quality and the crew did a good job of laying it, but, it's December in Chicago. Under such conditions, how good can it be?

There are voices in Chicago calling for a switch to artificial turf. Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune had two columns detailing the difficulty of growing grass in northern climes in December, and advocating a switch to FieldTurf or another infill artificial surface. Money quotes:

"The Bears and the Park District should definitely sit down and explore the options in the offseason," Soldier Field general manager Tim LeFevour said. "It would probably benefit all parties."

The park district and the Bears have done as good a job as possible of keeping the playing field manageable. But there is only so much anyone can do. There still have been divots all over the field. Cleats often don't grip right, and players end up sliding when they try to stop.

As you can tell from the title of this blog, I favor natural grass. Yes it's difficult to maintain in the north, but when it's done well, it's beautiful. Perhaps the Bears/Chicago Park District should try a switch to DD GrassMaster. DD GrassMaster is a natural turf with synthetic blades of grass about eight inches deep that the roots of the grass wrap around. The Green Bay Packers converted from all natural turf to DD GrassMaster before the 2007 season and it's worked out well for them. The Broncos are happy with their DD GrassMaster field at Invesco. If it works in Denver, it should work in Chicago. On the other hand, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia didn't like their DD GrassMaster and switched to full natural turf.

One other point to consider. The U.S. Soccer Federation is trying to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Soldier Field hosted the opening game of the 1994 World Cup, and it would be a natural for it to host games again. Artificial turf would certainly hurt those chances.

Until next time.

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