No turf war at Dome this year
No turf war at Dome this year
$275,000 OK'd for new playing surface
Sunday, July 10, 2005
By Bruce Eggler
The Superdome again will have fresh artificial turf for this fall's football season.
The Superdome Commission voted Thursday to spend as much as $275,000 to buy and install the new turf. It also agreed to spend up to $140,000 to replace some of the controls in the Dome's computerized lighting system, $70,000 to replace a compressor in the building's main air-conditioning chiller and $40,000 to repair components in the public-address system.
The turf used for the 2004 season wasn't worn out, but since the Dome switched to infill-style turf in the middle of the 2003 football season, it has followed the policy of removing the turf in January after the season ends and installing a fresh batch the next summer.
Dome officials say it would be possible to reuse the old turf but that it would not meet National Football League specifications after being pulled up and then reinstalled.
The Saints agreed to split the cost of the new turf with the Dome in 2003 and 2004 but refused to do so this year.
Including sidelines, the turf covers about 100,000 square feet and weighs about 450,000 pounds.
Cover is rejected
There is an alternative to getting new turf every year: installing a cover over the artificial grass to let the Dome hold offseason events -- such as the Endymion extravaganza, the Essence Music Festival and the New Orleans Boat Show -- on the Dome floor without destroying the turf.
But Doug Thornton, the Dome's former general manager and now a regional vice president for SMG, the company that manages the Dome for the state, said the cover would cost more than $1 million and that both it and the turf would still need to be replaced about every five years.
He said officials decided it made more sense simply to install fresh turf every year.
Glenn Menard, Thornton's successor as Dome general manager, said the turfs used in 2003 and 2004 were sold to Louisiana Tech and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for about $30,000 each.
Made in Canada
The 2005 turf will be the same model as that used last year. Known as Momentum, it is manufactured by Sportexe, a Canadian company. The Superdome signed a contract with Sportexe last year guaranteeing the Dome the same price through 2006.
Like AstroPlay, the brand used in 2003, Momentum turf features 2-inch blades of polyethylene "grass" supported by a 1 ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â¾-inch base of sand and rubber called infill.
The infill-style artificial grass has a more realistic look and feel than the carpet-like playing surface that had covered the Dome's floor for many years.
The infill-style turf comes with inlaid yardage lines and numbers, meaning they don't have to be painted onto the turf. The lines are created by sewing in white blades of artificial grass, instead of the regular green blades, as the turf is manufactured. Logos for the Saints and other teams or events must still be painted onto the turf.
In the past, everything had to be painted, with crews having to touch up the lines and numbers before each game.
Thornton said the cover that would allow other events to take place on top of the turf would consist of 8-foot-by-8-foot, 1 ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½-inch-thick sheets of foam-filled plastic.
But he said holes would have to be cut in it and in the underlying turf for shows that need access to the electrical lines in the stadium's floor, and additional layers of plywood and plastic would have to be placed over the cover for monster truck shows and other events involving unusually heavy loads.
Sportexe bid the best
Dome officials had not planned to replace the stadium's venerable carpet-like AstroTurf surface in 2003, but they got such a good offer from SRI Sports of Leander, Texas, that they decided to replace the turf in midseason.
SRI, which wanted to be able to advertise that the Superdome was among its customers, offered to install the AstroPlay turf for $190,000 for 2003. For 2004, it promised to reinstall the same turf, if feasible, for $165,000, or new turf for $200,000. But the company went bankrupt in early 2004, leaving the Dome contract in limbo.
SMG asked other companies making similar turf systems to bid on the Superdome contract and got four responses, three from companies whose products had been approved by the NFL. Over the three-year contract, the Sportexe bid was about $400,000 cheaper than those from FieldTurf and ProGreen International.
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Bruce Eggler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3320.
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