Tuesday, November 20, 2012


(MONTGOMERY, Alabama) - The world’s oldest game between Historically Black Colleges and Universities kicks off on Thanksgiving Day on the newest AstroTurf field in college football.

The 89th Turkey Day Classic will pit Alabama State against Tuskegee at the all new Hornet Stadium on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. CST.

Over the past week, the Hornets have been preparing for the debut of the new stadium by practicing on the new AstroTurf field.  There is a different kind of excitement in the air and practice has taken on an almost game day atmosphere.  Players have been a bit wide-eyed and in awe of the new 26,500-seat, $62 million stadium, which is part of a $600 million, 5-phase master plan for the university that will be complete in 2035.
The stadium features a new look, new lighting, 20 suites, club seating, party terraces, multiple locker rooms, and many more features.  Ultimately, the field is where the work of the Hornets gets done, and it was a key component in the stadium project.

"When we were looking at the stadium, and all the nice things we were putting in the stadium, the surface was definitely the most important,” said Alabama State Head Coach Reggie Barlow.  “We wanted something that would be great for game day and also durable, so we decided on Astroturf.  I've been blessed to play and coach on several different surfaces. This is by far the best I've ever seen."
Alabama State University is located in Montgomery and has been in existence since 1867.  The Hornets have been playing football since 1901.  ASU has an enrollment of about 5,600 students.  With the addition of the new stadium and the other campus projects, that will definitely change.
“The vision of the ASU administration and their commitment to all facets of university life is a tremendous thing for this university,” said Rusty Russell of AstroTurf.  “Athletically, the addition of the AstroTurf field provides a number of benefits.  They now have a more consistent and durable playing surface that leads to better performance.  It’s a great looking field and helps build support for the program, which leads to more successful recruiting efforts.  This field and this new stadium will also have an effect on student enrollment and the continued growth of the storied tradition of Alabama State.”
From a performance standpoint, the make-up of the AstroTurf GameDay Grass 3D52H system stands out.  This surface features the all new Horseshoe fiber.  This new fiber is enjoying unprecedented success in the sports field marketplace, due to factors such as its unique shape.  The fiber’s horseshoe shape features two end columns with a thicker diameter.  The design imparts mechanical memory so that the fiber remains upright longer, unlike other fields whose fibers quickly flatten and split or shred at the spine.  The Horseshoe fiber continues to spring back to its original configuration, even after years of heavy foot traffic or exposure to ultra-violet radiation.

The field also has a face weight of 52 ounces of fiber per square yard, one of the highest in the industry.  This adds to the durability provided by the fiber shape.

The Horseshoe fiber’s shape also allows it to reflect light and heat away from the surface.  That, in combination with AstroFlect heat reduction technology, can lower surface temperatures by as much as 18%.

The field also features a texturized nylon RootZone.  The patented RootZone acts as a thatch layer that encapsulates the rubber infill to provide minimal rubber splash, uniform traction, and better shock absorbency.  

From a maintenance standpoint, the field will require periodic grooming, but maintenance efforts are greatly reduced.  This will be vitally important as it related to the amount of use the new field will get, but will not require the maintenance required by a grass field to accommodate this level of use.

Regarding safety, a study at Michigan State University, funded by NFL Charities, found that AstroTurf GameDay Grass systems had performance values more like natural grass than any other synthetic product measured, making it the safest option.  In extensive testing, the Horseshoe fiber performs most like natural grass from ball roll, to slide resistance, to the biomechanical function of cleats penetrating and releasing properly.  

Specifically, the study discovered that the greatest reduction in torque (the twisting force that contributes to lower limb injuries) was achieved with AstroTurf’s RootZone.  The researchers attributed this statistically significant finding to the fact that AstroTurf required less infill to stabilize the turf system.  With less rubber, the AstroTurf system resisted infill compaction that could lead to cleats locking into the playing surface and exerting excessive torque on lower limbs. 

From an aesthetics standpoint, the fields look amazing.  Making it even better is the fact that the football lines and logos are prefabricated and manufactured as part of the field, so the look is consistent.

There are a couple of added benefits.  One is the environment.  In 2010, BASF did a study comparing AstroTurf fields to natural grass fields.  In 11 environmental categories, AstroTurf had a lower environmental footprint than natural grass.  Factors contributing to this include reduced maintenance and mowing, which cause a variety of emissions.  Other factors include elimination of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the need for water. 

The AstroTurf surface is backed with soy-based polymers, which are polyurethane polymers manufactured with a portion of the polyol derived from the soybean plant, a renewable resource.  A typical AstroTurf field will use a significant amount of soybeans for its coating, which helps support the 600,000 soybean farmers in the United States.

From an economic standpoint, over 20 years, AstroTurf fields are, on average, 15% less expensive than natural grass fields, even when the cost of turf replacement is considered.

Finally, the biggest benefit seen by the most people will be the performance of the Alabama State University football team.  The first test for the 7-3 Hornets will be the 9-1 Golden Tigers.

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"This is not your father's AstroTurf" - Archie Manning