This week we look at the historical development of Synthetic turfs role and usage in the team sports world. In the beginning fake turf was introduced to much fanfare in the 1960s, but it was not until the early 1980s when a vastly improved second generation product gained widespread popularity. Early on James Faria and Robert Wright of Monsanto Industries co-invented Astroturf. A patent for astroturf was filed for on December 25, 1965 and issued by the USPTO on July 25, 1967.
During the 50s and 60s, the Ford Foundation was studying ways to improve the physical fitness of young people. At the same time, the Chemstrand Company, a subsidiary of Monsanto Industries, were developing new synthetic fibers for use as tough carpeting. Chemstrand was encouraged to try to make the perfect urban sports surface for schools by the Ford Foundation.
From 1962 to 1966, Chemstrand worked on creating new sports surfaces. The surfaces were tested for foot traction and cushioning, weather drainage, flammability and wear resistance.
The Creative Products Group installed a synthetic turf called Chemgrass at the Moses Brown School in Providence Rhode Island.This was the first large-scale installation of a synthetic turf. In 1965, Judge Roy Hofheinz built the AstroDome in Houston, Texas. Hofheinz consulted with Monsanto about replacing the natural grass with a new synthetic playing surface.
In 1966, the Houston Astros’ baseball season begins on a Chemgrass surface now renamed Astroturf at the AstroDome. Supposedly it was renamed AstroTurf by one John A. Wortmann. 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.
Then in the late 1990s, an infilled synthetic turf system was introduced that duplicated the look and playability of lush grass, and is the basis for the ever-evolving systems of today.
Currently ore than 11,000 synthetic turf sports fields are currently in use throughout the United States. In 2013, between 1,200 and 1,300 fields were installed in North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums.
Synthetic turf is a popular and versatile solution for other sports, such as field hockey, baseball, tennis, lacrosse and rugby. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf. Since 2003, over 70 FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup matches have been played on synthetic turf soccer fields. Millions of students have new opportunities to practice and play on a sports field that can always be counted upon. It has helped teams go from worst to first, intensified school pride and brought together entire communities.