The Texas Rangers have announced that they will use artificial turf rather than grass in their new retractable-roof stadium that opens in 2020.
That will make the Rangers the fourth team to use fake grass after the Blue Jays, Rays and, most recently, the Diamondbacks, who are switching from real grass this offseason. At the peak of the plastic grass era, a high of 10 stadiums had artificial surfaces, both from 1977-78 and again from 1982-94. There have not been as many as four ballparks with artificial turf since 2004, when the Montreal Expos left Olympic Stadium for Washington, D.C. A traditionalist might observe that we’re going in the wrong direction.
Not that the debate is as clear cut as it was a few years ago.
The Rangers said in their announcement that the decision was made after almost two years of research regarding player safety, team performance and fan experience. You have to assume cost is a factor too. As we noted when the Dbacks made the switch, water costs are a big thing with grass. And energy costs too, given that you have to have the roof open to get sunlight to the grass during the day. The cost of having to re-cool the stadium after closing the roof before game time in the hottest of summer months is pretty high. Overall, it’s probably more economical and ecologically-friendly to have fake turf. Assuming, of course, it’s not made out of, I dunno, radioactive waste or blue whale carcasses or something.
The long-time knocks on artificial turf, of course, were that it (a) was hard on players’ knees — ask Andre Dawson how he liked it — (b) the high bounces of choppers and grounders; (c) the heat it created; and, of course (d) the whole aesthetic experience. Much of that, we were told when the Dbacks made their announcement, will not be an issue with the latest generation of turf. It’s supposedly easier on players’ joints and gives truer bounces. if you have a full-dirt infield it looks better and, as we have seen as the turf in Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre has evolved over the years, it has gotten better in the looks department. Heat won’t be an issue as these are coming online in domed stadiums. No more of those Riverfront/Busch Stadium day game roasts like we’d see back in the 80s.
Only time will tell, I suppose. The look upon unveiling and what players think of it will be the determining factor as to whether this is ultimately a good move or a bad move.
What say you, people?