FieldTurf is a brand of artificial turf playing surface. It is manufactured and installed by FieldTurf Tarkett, a division of French company Tarkett Inc., headquartered in Calhoun, Georgia, USA. In the late 1990s, the artificial surface changed the industry with a design intended to replicate real grass. The new system quickly began taking market share from AstroTurf, and is now the leader in the industry and currently holds an 85% market share within the industry.
The surface is composed of monofilament polyethylene blend fibers tufted into a polypropylene backing. The infill is composed of a bottom layer of silica sand, a middle layer which is a mixture of sand and cryogenic rubber, and a top layer of only rubber. The fibers are meant to replicate blades of grass, while the infill acts as a cushion. This cushion improves safety when compared to earlier artificial surfaces and allows players to plant and pivot as if they were playing on a grass field. Proponents of the surface also cite its low-cost maintenance and durability.
Jean Prévost bought the patent of the FieldTurf product in 1988 and originally named his Montreal-based company SynTenni Co., a name which would eventually be dropped in favor of FieldTurf Inc. In 1995, John Gilman, a former Canadian Football League player and coach, joined FieldTurf as CEO.
In 1997, FieldTurf made its first major installation for a professional team, at the training facility for the English Premiership's Middlesbrough F.C.. As of 2012[update], FieldTurf has installed over 7000 athletic fields.
In 2005, French flooring manufacturer and minority shareholder Tarkett increased its share in FieldTurf, which led to the integration of the two companies. FieldTurf is now a part of the Tarkett Sports division, part of the holding company Tarkett SA. The FieldTurf head corporate office is located in Calhoun, Georgia.
FieldTurf is made from washed silica sand and rounded cryogenic rubber. Each square foot of turf contains approximately seven pounds of sand and three pounds of cryogenic rubber. FieldTurf does not use shock absorbency pads below its multi-layered infill. FieldTurf offers a number of different polyethylene fibers. The backing of the turf is a combination of woven and non-woven polypropylene. These materials are permeable and allow water to drain through the backing itself.
A FieldTurf installation sized for American football cost about $900,000 (US) in 2008, but is estimated (by FieldTurf) to save about $47,500 per year in maintenance. The field is warrantied for eight years and should last for ten, according to FieldTurf.
There are conflicting studies of the safety of FieldTurf. A five-year study funded by FieldTurf and published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that injury rates for high school sports were similar on natural grass and synthetic turf. There were, however, notable differences in the types of injuries. Athletes playing on synthetic turf sustained more skin injuries and muscle strains while those who played on natural grass were more susceptible to concussions and ligament tears. In 2010, another FieldTurf-funded but peer-reviewed study was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, this time on NCAA Division 1-A football, concluding that in many cases games played on FieldTurf-branded products led to fewer injuries than those played on natural grass. However, the NFL’s Injury and Safety Panel presented a study finding that anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries happened 88 percent more often in games played on FieldTurf than in games played on grass. In 2012, the NFL Injury and Safety Panel published an independently funded analysis of actual game data over the 2000-2009 seasons. Their statistically significant findings showed a 67% higher rate of ACL sprains and 31% higher rate of eversion ankle sprains.
Martin O'Neill said FIFA officials should "have their heads examined" for allowing FieldTurf after Thomas Sorensen suffered a non-contact hamstring injury during a game in Toronto. According to FIFA at the time, 14% of injuries on grass were non-contact-related while the figure rose to 22% on the turf.
Gridiron (American football)
The first major installation of FieldTurf for football in the United States was at the University of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium in 1999. The following year, it was installed at the two Pac-10 stadiums in Washington, Martin Stadium in Pullman and Husky Stadium in Seattle. The first installation in an NFL stadium was in 2002 at the Seattle Seahawks' new stadium, now known as CenturyLink Field (the Seahawks would make their first Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XL, which was the first Super Bowl to use FieldTurf). Originally planned as a natural grass field, the Seahawks decided to install FieldTurf after they had played the two previous seasons in Husky Stadium on FieldTurf. Conventional artificial turfs, like AstroTurf, had been disliked by players due to the injuries and soreness associated with playing on the previous generations' harder surfaces. Seattle's head coach, Mike Holmgren, said of the FieldTurf surface: "it's about as much like grass as you can have a synthetic surface be" and that the "players love it". As the trend continued in the league, FieldTurf received reviews from players who cited that the field provided cushioning for falls, eased pressure on the knees, and did not cause turf burns. Stadium operators also noted the benefits of the improved durability and easier maintenance over natural grass fields. Eleven NFL teams currently play their home games on FieldTurf while 15 teams have FieldTurf in their practice facilities. FieldTurf has also been endorsed by several NCAA Division I football coaches, including Houston Nutt, Jim Tressel, and Bobby Petrino.
NFL players overwhelmingly prefer to play on natural grass.
Super Bowl XLVI
Super Bowl XLVI was played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, on February 5, 2012. The field is surfaced with FieldTurf, with both competing teams also having their home stadium installed with FieldTurf; the New England Patriots play on FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, while the New York Giants play on FieldTurf at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Association football (soccer)
FieldTurf's first high-profile installation came in January 1997 as English club Middlesbrough chose FieldTurf for its new training field. Only artificial fields with FIFA-recommended 2-star status can be used in FIFA and UEFA Finals competitions. Other FIFA and UEFA competitions require at least 1-star status. No World Cup Finals match has ever been played on an artificial surface.
In 2001, Boston University's FieldTurf soccer field became FieldTurf's first to obtain FIFA 1-star status. In 2005, Saprissa Stadium in San José, Costa Rica became the first stadium to host a FIFA World Cup qualifying match on FieldTurf. The Dundalk F.C. Stadium, Oriel Park received FieldTurf's first FIFA 2-star rating. FieldTurf currently has 29 FIFA-recommended 1-Star installations and 31 FIFA Recommended 2-Star installations. In 2007, the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada had almost 50% of its games played on FieldTurf. In 2014, Marshall University was only the second college in the United States to have its artificial turf field receive a 1-Star rating.
The emergence of the surface in association football stadia has been controversial. Players and coaches have been critical of the toll it takes on a player's body, and have expressed concerns that it does not play enough like actual grass. The surface has also been criticized for the infill not staying in place. In 2007, Garry O'Connor spoke out against the FieldTurf surface he played on during a cup final with Lokomotiv Moscow. He called it a "nightmare" and said that he did not believe FIFA should allow qualifying matches to be played on the surface.
Although there are players who dislike playing on artificial turf, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that artificial turf will eventually become a big part of the game. "This is not only a point to make headlines, it is the truth....Football on artificial turf is the future."
Major League Soccer (Football)
The use of FieldTurf in Major League Soccer (MLS) has received criticism.
The installation of the surface at CenturyLink Field in Seattle was approved only after the operator of the then new stadium agreed to install a natural grass field when needed. Their concern derived from the surface potentially hindering the city's ability to attract an MLS franchise and international soccer events.
In September 2006, several top Canadian soccer players appealed to the Canadian Soccer Association to install a natural grass surface at BMO Field in Toronto. Darren Huckerby stated that was one reason he chose not to sign with Toronto FC. The club removed the FieldTurf playing surface and switched to a traditional grass surface starting in 2010 in a change that was welcomed by many players and fans.
Following David Beckham's move to Major League Soccer in 2007, he voiced his opinion that the league should convert to grass for all pitches. In an apology, he stated that the surface is fine at lower levels but that his feelings hadn't changed about the MLS use because of the toll the harder surface takes on the body. He also stated: "It's difficult but it's something we have to deal with. It's part of the MLS and we have to come to terms with it and I'm sure it will be fine." New York Red Bull's Thierry Henry was held out of a game due to concern that Seattle's CenturyLink surface could aggravate his existing Achilles injury.
Beckham later went on to partner with Zinedine Zidane for the launch of the Footprint Fields program. This program is headed by adidas, the MLS, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and FieldTurf, and its goal is to donate sums of money to local communities in need of new soccer installations. The selected grantees will have new installations of FieldTurf-branded fields.
A specialized version of FieldTurf called Air FieldTurf has been installed to cover the edges of runways at several airports. Artificial turf has several advantages over natural grass for this application:
- Rescue and firefighting vehicles can reliably drive on the artificial surface, as can planes that veer off the runway.
- Foreign object damage (FOD) can be reduced.
- Artificial turf provides no food, shelter, or water for wildlife, reducing the risk of wildlife colliding with planes.
- Artificial turf is always bright green, even in winter, and provides good visual contrast with runways and taxiways.
- Artificial turf will not wash away or become muddy, and helps to stabilize runway and taxiway shoulders.
- Less maintenance means fewer workers need security clearances, there is less chance of runway incursions by maintenance machines, and it may reduce costs.
- Erosion from aircraft maneuvering is much reduced.
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