Ravens opt to install artificial turf

Late-season conditions at stadium drive move

Pro Football

April 25, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Fed up with the field conditions at Ravens Stadium for games late in the season, team officials have decided to install Momentum Turf System, an artificial surface.

The synthetic field will be the first one used in Baltimore in its professional football history.

The field, which will begin to be installed in June after the NCAA lacrosse championships, is expected to be in place by the time of the first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Aug. 9.

Sportexe, manufacturer of Momentum Turf System, will also install the surface at the Ravens' indoor practice facility at the team's new complex, which is scheduled to open next year.

Until now, the Ravens have had to re-sod the stadium's grass field two to three times a year because of wear and tear.

"Ravens Stadium now becomes truly a very flexible venue ... " team president and CEO David Modell said.

"Previously, we would create a cutoff date in the middle of June where we wouldn't have any other events because of the risks that we would take with the natural-grass field.

"This field gives us the greatest flexibility because you can have the high school [championship] games on Saturday and play on Sunday. It can rain all day Saturday and you can have 20 teams playing on the field, and it's going to look the way it does now on Sunday."

Sportexe president Mark Nicholls said he anticipates the surface will last 15 years. The turf is made up of sand, granular rubber and polyethylene fibers with 2 1/2 -inch-long blades.

The standard roll size is 15 feet by 120 feet, and Fieldgreen will be the color used by the Ravens. The turf is nearly as soft as grass, but has tiny pieces of black rubber on the surface.

Traditionalists may view the installation of an artificial surface as a setback for vintage football, but the Ravens vehemently defended their decision.

The team said the playing surface has varied so much in the later part of the year because of fewer hours of daylight that it became increasingly difficult preparing for games.

There were times when chunks of sod came up after re-sodding midway through the season, and the field displayed visible patches of dirt at the end of games late in the year.

"Given the history of our stadium and the difficulties we've had in terms of maintaining our turf ... there are circumstances with shading weather that really make it difficult to maintain a consistent surface at the stadium," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Detroit, Houston, Seattle and Philadelphia use similar surfaces.

"This [surface] brings that consistency that not only I look for, but all the players," kicker Matt Stover said.

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