Of all the states that struggle with brutally hot temperatures during early season practices in August, few pose a greater threat than Texas. The Lone Star State bakes annually, and even if teams start practices at 9:30 a.m. or earlier, they're likely to encounter temperatures in the mid-90s or higher.
One school with the means to deal with these issues found an innovative solution: They replaced their field turf and overnight their athletes got cooler.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Highland Park (Texas) High installed a brand new FieldTurf product during the offseason in anticipation of hot practices and games during the football season. The school's Highlander Stadium now features CoolPlay, a FieldTurf technology that Highland Park coach Randy Allen told the newspaper keeps the rubber pellet and sand-based FieldTurf from trapping more heat on its surface.
The results have been notable.
"This FieldTurf is about 30 degrees cooler than the turf we had last year," Allen told the Morning News.
Traditional FieldTurf uses an "infill" product that is a combination of sand and rubber, both materials that trap heat. The new CoolPlay turf still uses a "cryogenic rubber and silica sand" base, but it's infill is topped with a layer of cork, which deflects the heat but still provides shock absorption, which has always been the goal of top FieldTurf surfaces.
Three universities have also stepped forward to install the new CoolPlay turf, with Maryland leading the way in 2012 and Louisville and Tulsa following suit for the start of the 2013 seasons.
You can see Tulsa roll out the CoolPlay turf in their stadium right here in cool timelapse video.
While it will still be some time before we learn the full effect of the new CoolPlay turf surface, it's clear that the early results -- at the time when the heat is at its worst -- have been positive. If FieldTurf's own proprietary research is correct, the new CoolTurf could also help schools save money when they avoiding watering the turf surfaces during the worst heat waves.
That's a smart benefit, though it's clear that student athletes benefit the most from the new turf on their fields.