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Beginnings of Artificial Grass
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Gerald P Njuguna

 
By Gerald P Njuguna
Published on December 26, 2008
 
Artificial grass has come a long way since fall of 1966, when removable Astroturf was installed in the Houston Astrodome. This was the first time that synthetic turf was used in professional sports.


Artificial grass has come a long way since fall of 1966, when removable Astroturf was installed in the Houston Astrodome. This was the first time that synthetic turf was used in professional sports.




The use of artificial turf became common in the 1970s as baseball and football stadiums in both the United States and Canada began to realize its immense economical benefits. Sports arenas located in the colder climates of the Midwest and Northeast, requiring the all weather capability offered by an indoor facility, utilized these new products extensively during that period.




Artificial grass was soon featuring in soccer, field hockey and American football stadia. Throughout the 80s and 90s artificial grass saw attacks being made on its impact and quality as compared to real grass. Questions and concerns about the safety, advantages and applications of artificial grass turf for sports fields were raised around this time in United States and in Europe.

The reason was that the first artificial turfs were a far harder surface than grass, and soon became known as an unforgiving playing surface. Not only were they prone to causing more injuries, they caused joint injuries more grave in comparison to those potentially suffered on a grass surface.

Artificial turf was also regarded as aesthetically unappealing to many fans, with players complaining of “rug burns” due to the higher friction upon impact. By the early 1990’s, several North American Football associations had reverted to natural grass playing fields.

Through the period from the early 1990's to early 2000’s, there was great progress made in the field of artificial sports surface technology. In a revolutionary change, various compositions of silica sand and/or recycled tires (granulated crumb rubber) were incorporated into extremely well-drained turf fields, for the first time. The quality and impact of the synthetic fields was now comparable to that of real-grass facilities. Along with new designs, competition in the field increased with multiple producers entering the industry.

Today, the technology has improved so dramatically that artificial grass suppliers have taken on projects ranging from simply putting greens and residential landscaping, to a ski run in Portugal to airport runways. Today, artificial grass is being used successfully at vastly different locations and is constantly finding new applications. That the industry is gaining in height can be adjudged by the recent decision from the international soccer federation (FIFA), allowing synthetic grass systems in international matches. New FIFA regulations are advocate use of artificial sports fields, which promises rapid growth for the industry in future.