Background of Artificial Grass
Artificial grass is manufactured from synthetic fibres to produce a surface that resembles real turf. The first notable production of artificial grass was achieved in the early 1960’s by a team of researchers at North Carolina State University College of Textiles. Following the installation of artificial grass at the Astrodome in 1965, the synthetic surface became instantly popular for major league baseball. The same year, the Houston Oilers’ AFL football season began on more than 125,000 square feet of removable Astroturf at the AstroDome. The next year, Indiana State University Stadium, in Terre Haute, Indiana became the first outdoor stadium installed with Astroturf. Artificial grass at the Astrodome received lots of media attention and was soon referred to as astro turf. The name was derived from the resident baseball team, the Houston Astros.
The artificial grass product installed at the Astrodome was Chemgrass. When the surface became better known as astro turf, the company quickly registered this name as their new trademark. Many people today are unaware of this trademark because all artificial grass products are commonly referred to as astro turf. This misunderstanding is prevalent in several industries and is known as a genericised trademark. Some examples are Hoover, Kleenex, Sellotape, Frisbee, Xerox and now astro turf.
Artificial Grass in Sports Construction
The world of sports construction was transformed with artificial grass. Baseball, Field Hockey, American Football and Soccer teams started using this new surface soon after the media explosion in Houston at the Astrodome.
The first association football club to adopt artificial grass was Queens Park Rangers (English league) in 1981. They were followed by several other clubs who appreciated the advantages of this new surface; specifically the low maintenance costs and the ability to play in subzero temperatures without the ground becoming frozen. Unfortunately, artificial grass was banned by the English FA in 1988 as it was deemed significantly inferior to natural grass. The ball did not bounce or roll as the players expected and the harder surface caused more injuries. Many sports professionals in the United States were also averse to playing on artificial grass. The baseball player Dick Allen famously said, “If a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it”.
Third Generation Turf
Third generation turf has sand or rubber infill to keep the grass fibres upright and provide a more realistic ball movement that simulates natural grass. The infill also improves shock absorbency in case a player falls on the ground and in some cases, the third generation turf is even softer than natural grass. The problem of “astro turf burns” has also been resolved with third generation turf because the long grass blades coated in silicone are a low-abrasive surface.
With a high performance and realistic surface that reduces the likelihood of injury, it is clear to see why the world of sport is once again turning its attention to artificial grass. Many high profile teams are now using artificial grass manufactured by GreenFields as their first choice playing surface.