My Annual Plea

Tonight, another football season commences with the Steelers and Eagles kicking off the pre-season at Heinz Field. 65,00 rabid fans will begin that annual tradition of pulling for Pittsburgh’s Black and Gold.

Tonight also marks the return of my annual plea to the powers that be at Heinz Field that they do the smart, ecomnomical thing and please replace the grass at the stadium with field FieldTurf.

Since the stadium opened in 2001, Heinz Field has hosted AFC Championship games, concerts and high school title tilts. But the north shore stadium has become famous – or rather “infamous” – for its field. The turf has been voted the NFL’s worst by the players, the high schoolers who play the WPIAL title on that field have openly criticized it and then, there was the muddy Monday night debacle.

The muddy mess at Heinz Field last November. It put the troubled Heinz Field turf on the nation’s radar.

Last November, the turf at Heinz Field was so chewed up by Thanksgiving, the staff decided to re-sod in mid-season. Well, that decision would lead to disastrous results when rain fell on the sod which was layed on top of the old sod the night before the game. The new sod turned to mud and the teams were reduced to playing in what amounted to quicksand. The visual that stays with us from that day: a punt that stuck in the turf pointing upward.

I admire the desire to play on a natural surface, however that time has come and gone. The pristine grass we will see tonight will be brown by October and reduced to being dirt by November. Steelers and Panther football games will take their toll and then, there is that weekend in late November when the four WPIAL Championships will be played in one day … further obliterating what’s left of the grass.

FieldTurf is an artificial form of grass. It looks like the real stuff and plays like it as well. However, there is no dirt to worry about and no chance the grass fibers will give way during the worst weather.

It just makes sense to make the move. Think about it: Just about every high school in western Pennsylvania has this artificial surface. The schools went this way for the simplest of reasons: They use the fields for multiple sports and realize that if they went with grass, the surface couldn’t take the beating. If high schools realize this, why haven’t the folks at Heinz FIeld which is the premier facility for football in the area?

It makes sense from an economic point of view. It simply costs more to re-sod a stadium every year than to lay down the artificial surface one time. Injury? The technology is so advanced that if you do get hurt on FieldTurf, chances are that same injury would happen on grass.

Will my plea go unheard? Probably. With that in mind, enjoy tonight’s football game at Heinz Field and be sure to tune in before the game begins. Take in the view of the pristine turf and realize that it will NEVER look any better this year than it will tonight.

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