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saint5221 08-03-2003 01:37 PM

Good article on Dome playing field
 
http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...1158248420.xml

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Saints News


Saints wait for field of dreams

New Dome surface likely for 2004


Sunday August 03, 2003


By Bob Fortus
Staff writer


As far as the Saints are concerned, the 2004 season can't get here fast enough.

Not that the outlook for 2003 isn't promising, team-wise. Let's just say 2004 could be much more comfortable, derrière-wise.


The Saints are hoping that the AstroTurf in the Superdome will be replaced, if not this season by the next, with a state-of-the art synthetic grass like the rubberized type that carpets the team's practice facility.

"Basically, the sooner the better," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. "If there was a way it could be done this year, we'd be absolutely in favor of that."

But engineering challenges make a switch unlikely this season, said Doug Thornton, regional general manager of SMG, which runs the Dome. It's reasonable, though, to expect the Superdome to install a new synthetic-grass field for the 2004 season, Thornton said.

"I'm more convinced than ever that it can be done," he said.

The Saints practice on FieldTurf, one of several brands of what Thornton called "in-fill turf systems," in which ground rubber and sand fill in space between fibers of synthetic grass. FieldTurf is about 20 percent sand and 80 percent rubber, Thornton said. Other systems, such as AstroPlay, the surface at the University of Illinois, where the Chicago Bears played last season, are mainly rubber.

Several NFL teams and Division I colleges have installed in-fill systems at stadiums or practice fields. Ford Field in Detroit, Seahawks Stadium in Seattle and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta have FieldTurf.

Loomis said teams with grass fields have held an advantage over AstroTurf-field teams in recruiting free agents. Synthetic grass at the Dome would help make the Saints more attractive to players, he said.

Saints defensive back Keyuo Craver, who was playing at Nebraska when that school installed FieldTurf in 1999, said he thinks the surface is safer than grass, and much kinder on players' bodies than the artificial turf in the Superdome.

"After the game, taking a shower, when you have those turf burns on your knees, that really burns," Craver said. "This stuff, it's smooth. It's like grass."

"Injuries can happen on any type of surface, but this may possibly lessen the impact," Saints head trainer Scottie Patton said. "It kind of feels better for the athlete. It's a little less wear and tear on the body."

Thornton said SMG first considered synthetic grass for the Superdome nearly three years ago. "Portability issues" present significant problems, he said.

The Superdome plays host to many events besides football games. To prepare the building for concerts, tractor pulls, trade shows, circuses or conventions, workers can pick up the AstroTurf in six to eight hours.

But in-fill turf systems are essentially permanent. "If the turf cannot be removed, then you have to cover it," Thornton said. "The cover has to be able to withstand thousand of pounds of weight."

At the Georgia Dome, where FieldTurf was installed in July, a high-tech cover made of a hard, plastic-like material has worked well, General Manager Carl Adkins said. The cover withstood the weight of a recent convention for which a stage was erected, he said. Plywood on top of the cover has helped with weight distribution. "We've been driving forklifts over it and semi-trucks," Adkins said.

The Georgia Dome and Ford Field have drains in their floors. At the Superdome, which doesn't have drains, problems must be solved concerning use of water to clean the field or remove paint from it, Thornton said.

Also, the Superdome has utility boxes in the floor. How best to access the boxes through the turf is another engineering issue.

"You don't want to be able to detect the seams or have seaming problems when you're playing on it," said Kelly Kerns, an architect with Ellerbe Becket, a Kansas City firm that has been hired by SMG to work on the engineering problems.

SMG is committed to putting down a top-quality football field in the Superdome, "but they have to survive as a viable venue 365 days a year," Kerns said.

An alternative to covering a synthetic-grass field is a tray system, Thornton said. The synthetic grass would sit in 8-foot-square trays, which would eliminate the need for a cover and make the field portable. "This system would solve a lot of the problems," Thornton said. Research is under way on whether it would work in the Superdome, he said.

Synthetic grass with a cover system can be installed for $1.5 million to $2 million, Thornton said. "The tray system could be a little more expensive," he said.

He also said he thinks a tray system might be the right approach for the Superdome, though a cover system appears doable as a fall back plan.

"My position is, we didn't have the money in the offseason; we don't have the money right now," Thornton said. "Why don't we wait and see what happens? There might be a better way to do it."

Said Loomis: "They did it in the Georgia Dome. They did it in Ford Field. There are problems, but there are solutions."

. . . . . . .

Bob Fortus can be reached at rfortus@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3408.

LordOfEntropy 08-03-2003 03:21 PM

Good article on Dome playing field
 
Good article, thanx Saint5221. All I can say about this is - it\'s about friggin\' time.

qball316 08-03-2003 11:57 PM

Good article on Dome playing field
 
For yall info, Mickey Loomis said during the Chaulk Talk saturday at UL. They would have it by 2004, but they are pushing to have it by the start of regular season this year! So thats something to keep an eye on for the next few weeks also.


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