UT's 'field of dreams' takes look at turf

Natural, artificial surfaces compared

UT president Dr. Joe DiPietro catches a pass from AstroTurf president Bryan Peeples during an event where UT and AstroTurf broke ground on a multi-year research initiative to compare natural grass playing surfaces to synthetic surfaces. The UT Center For Athletic Field Safety (CAFS) is a one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to researching the performance and safety of natural and synthetic turf surfaces used on athletic fields. It represents the single largest athletic field research effort ever undertaken.

Photo by By Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel

UT president Dr. Joe DiPietro catches a pass from AstroTurf president Bryan Peeples during an event where UT and AstroTurf broke ground on a multi-year research initiative to compare natural grass playing surfaces to synthetic surfaces. The UT Center For Athletic Field Safety (CAFS) is a one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to researching the performance and safety of natural and synthetic turf surfaces used on athletic fields. It represents the single largest athletic field research effort ever undertaken.

Joe DiPietro speaks at field dedication

University of Tennessee president Joe DiPietro caught the football in stride and the crowd went wild.

"Hey," Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley yelled, "no celebrations."

On this day - Wednesday at the dedication for the new UT Center for Athletic Field Safety - the coach's request was resoundingly ignored.

Dooley was one of a number of big names on hand for the dedication, which celebrated the beginning of the largest known undertaking of athletic field research. A little more than one year after UT and AstroTurf broke ground on the $1.5 million facility at UT Institute of Agriculture's East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, all the responsible parties converged on the sprawling site to officially open it with a game of catch.

"It's probably one of the most exciting days of my life as an academician to see this come to fruition," said John Sorochan, associate professor and turfgrass specialist with the Department of Plant Sciences in the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

"We jokingly call it our field of dreams."

Really, it's 60 fields, and all are constructed just a little differently from the other with a variety of playing surfaces. The fields are designed to represent those used for professional-level sports to surfaces used by schools and public parks.

Initial research began in the fall, as UT scientists are attempting to determine the safety and performance of AstroTurf products compared to various natural turfgrass systems. They also are analyzing the environmental impact on the surfaces over time.

"The quicker that we get this information out to the industry, folks like AstroTurf and the others we compete with on the open market can change their products," AstroTurf president Bryan Peoples said. "It will provide a safe environment and a safe surface for athletes."

Dooley and the Vols have been happy customers with AstroTurf, as they recently replaced 100 yards worth of old turf in the Neyland Thompson Sports Center with the company's latest, "3DH" synthetic grass surface. They're currently laying a new patch of "3DH" at Haslam Field for the section where offensive and defensive linemen carry out their individual drills.

Former Vol standout Eric Berry, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, partnered with AstroTurf last summer when he released plans to refurbish a park in his hometown of Fairburn, Ga. Berry was unable to attend Wednesday, but sent along a statement that was read during the ceremony.

Among the hundreds that gathered for the ceremony were Washington Nationals general manager Bob Boone and NFL Players Association assistant executive director Clark Gaines.

"This program puts us on the cutting edge," DiPietro said. "That's where the university presidents want their universities to be and their programs to be."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 29

Voluvr writes:

Hopefully our agr people can't be bought.

LJS1984 writes:

Just don't put that fake stuff down in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee was one of the first schools in the south to have astro-turf (1968) so I'm sure it's coming to Neyland soon. Money talks.

pickinhick writes:

I'd hate to see our ag department lose scholarships for mishandling money.
Also, how much do they pay players to mow it?

beatlecakes writes:

In 1968, Neyland Stadium was surfaced with artificial turf for three reasons: it was a recruiting advantage, it was cheaper to maintain and it was safer for the athletes. The decision to go back to real turf was done for the same three reasons some 25 years later!

LJS1984 writes:

in response to pickinhick:

I'd hate to see our ag department lose scholarships for mishandling money.
Also, how much do they pay players to mow it?

They pay the AG students majoring in turfgrass management in the way of scholarship money to manage the current playing surface. Much the same way that they pay the STUDENT ATHLETES scholarship money to play on it. This pay for play idea has to go. The scholarship money to play big time college football is more than sufficient (just walk around campus on a school day and see if you can't spot the athletes riding high and proud in their 50,000 dollar sports cars and SUV's you can usually hear them coming first, it's not hard to do I've even done it). Nine out of ten scholarship college football players are ten times better off than the average non scholarship and even scholarship student. I just wish that when I went to UT I had a 120 million dollar building all to myself and 100 of my best friends to take a dump in. Forget the other 27,000 plus students. Don't get me wrong I'm a diehard fan, but these "student athletes" don't need to be paid anymore than they already are.

VolzsFan writes:

No wonder we are doing grass research. Our President and Chancellor are both farmers LOL!!

VolzsFan writes:

They will win about 4-6 games per year for about 15 years. Might as well let them play on dirt for all that it will matter.

VOODOOley-2011 (Inactive) writes:

WE should have Dr. VOSS (from the Casey Anthony Trial), come over from ORNL and give his theories about all kinds of things, that have nothing to do with facts.

volhome writes:

I watched the turf installed for the '68 season, attended games during that era, and have seen several games played on the 'improved' surfaces of today. Bleech.

UT is known to have one of the best natural grass surfaces in the nation. It looks good live and on television. With care it replenishes itself and helps deal with the goop deposited onto it throughout the course of game. Artificial surfaces seldom look good, live or on television. They are hotter. And when players sweat, bleed, spit, snot and puke on it, it only gets washed off by rain.

NO ARTIFICIAL SURFACES AT NEYLAND STADIUM EVER AGAIN! I have dealt with losing my preferred season ticket seats, failed promises for club seats in the South Endzone, failed promises for pre-game club area outside TBA, and still send my annual donation and buy my season tickets. Change to artificial surface and I am done, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Some of you guys will find a negative in everything. Geez. This is no different than IBM giving computers to the Comp Sci. department or Vandy football giving possums to their fans.

voloffaith writes:

in response to LaneKiffinISyourDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Tommy did ewe brush your teeth? Yes mommy. Well get off that computer and get outside and do your chores. Aw mom do I have to? Yes, that computer will mess with your brain sonny. Mom 20 more minutes? No young man I've read some of your stuff and you've bothered enuff weary souls this morning. Honey what happened to your other poster name kifin..aw something anyway? Did they ban my lil boy? Oh well honey ewe know what I always say in the face of adversity...Right ON!!

MusicCityVol writes:

Exciting stuff. With the progress made on synthetic surfaces in the last 10 years, I would be all for Neyland going back to artificial. There are many playing fields aroung the country that have synthetic grass and most fans don't even know it's artificial at first glance.

Same Old Vandy or a New Era?
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

in response to volhome:

I watched the turf installed for the '68 season, attended games during that era, and have seen several games played on the 'improved' surfaces of today. Bleech.

UT is known to have one of the best natural grass surfaces in the nation. It looks good live and on television. With care it replenishes itself and helps deal with the goop deposited onto it throughout the course of game. Artificial surfaces seldom look good, live or on television. They are hotter. And when players sweat, bleed, spit, snot and puke on it, it only gets washed off by rain.

NO ARTIFICIAL SURFACES AT NEYLAND STADIUM EVER AGAIN! I have dealt with losing my preferred season ticket seats, failed promises for club seats in the South Endzone, failed promises for pre-game club area outside TBA, and still send my annual donation and buy my season tickets. Change to artificial surface and I am done, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I am with you volhome. I feel strongly about this one too. I can't hardly watch a game from Ole Miss or OSU from the unnatural aesthetics those surfaces render.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

They will win about 4-6 games per year for about 15 years. Might as well let them play on dirt for all that it will matter.

They will have a greater winning percentage during the next 15 years of football than you will at being a life success.

DES14 writes:

This is not the same turf you saw back in 68.
Its not 1/4 inch long like the old turf. D1 and all the major training facilities around the country have this turf. If its good enough for Peyton,I think its good enough for TN. But if anyone wants to give up their tickets because the VOLS are playing on turf I know several VOL fans that would love to have them.

revols21 writes:

in response to LaneKiffinISyourDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bro, you are acting like the Mighty Trojans are better off. How many games did they win last year? Did they even go to a bowl? Are they going to a bowl this year? Get off your frickin high-horse and get a clue. The only thing Kiffin has going for him is his wife! That's the only reason we liked him around here.

tnlaxer writes:

Modern day turf has no connection to the stuff laid down in 1968. It can be made to be an exact look a like to grass so it isn't obviously synthetic turf. I believe what the research shows is that there are less injuries on the modern synthetic turf than there is on grass. By the 3rd or 4th quarter of a football game there can be very uneven ground between the hash marks. Many ankles and knees have been twisted by a receiver catching the ball over the middle landing in a dug out spot where a lineman dug in his heals. This does not happen with the modern synthetic turf. If you haven't played on a brand new field turf field in the last 5 years you have no basis for your opinion.

I also agree there are many fans that would gladly pickup your season tickets should you choose not to contribute in the future.

BxVol writes:

in response to LJS1984:

Just don't put that fake stuff down in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee was one of the first schools in the south to have astro-turf (1968) so I'm sure it's coming to Neyland soon. Money talks.

I was a student when the artificial turf was installed and as I remember it was not Astro Turf, it was Tarten Turf made by another company.Stokely Athletic Center removed the wood floor and also used a Tarten floor which was designed to have more give and prevent injuries.

revols21 writes:

in response to LaneKiffinISyourDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're right, your're more of a beotch than a bro. That is for certain.

There is no leftover frustration over Kiffin leaving. Like I said before, his smokin-hot wife was the only reason he was welcomed like he was.

The difference between UT & SC is UT is on the way back up and SC is headed down, and fast. Maybe by 2020, they may actually have a good team again. Kiffin and the trojans are actually a good fit, put a little pressure on them and they burst. Come to think of it, maybe he could be a spokesperson for Trojan.

Fight ON MORON!

jimmiedee writes:

I know put the new turf down in orange and white!!

VolnTex writes:

I heard the Vols are going to be playing on a cardboard surface this year, since they always look better on paper.

Volunatic writes:

lanekiffin'sduty said:
"I never had to worry about terrible QB's @ SC"
------------------------------------------
Clearly you are no SoCal fan, or you would remember Aaron Corp all too well.

calvol writes:

As a former turf student I can tell you that I was not well paid for mowing the lawn at the ag campus. It was fun at times though. Lunch at Mabel's was always good.

I don't think we'll see artificial turf at Neyland any time soon, but it is being installed at high schools and park districts all over the country. Much of the time it is installed without any real information on how well it will perform and for how long. This research facility is a nice score for the ag campus. The research conducted there will help improve the safety, as well as other elements of artificial turf installations. The industry and end users will all benefit from the research going on at UT. GBO!!!!

wofford writes:

Tartan turf was made by the 3-M company.....Monsanto made Astro turf. Vols of 68 played on tartan turf.

mhsvol writes:

This is the first time I've read Joe DiPietro's name in conjunction with a UT sports story since he was named president. I guess installing and testing a new field of turf requires a lot less leadership than dealing with a completely broken athletic department. Where was he when the entire athletic program was going south and top UT administrators were nowhere to be found (or heard)?

Until UT has leadership at the top that is committed to dealing with tough issues, I guess we'll continue to only see their names in association with this kind of fluff. Too bad.

volhome writes:

in response to DES14:

This is not the same turf you saw back in 68.
Its not 1/4 inch long like the old turf. D1 and all the major training facilities around the country have this turf. If its good enough for Peyton,I think its good enough for TN. But if anyone wants to give up their tickets because the VOLS are playing on turf I know several VOL fans that would love to have them.

Actually it is us long time Vol fans that supported the guys on the turf before. But the return to grass has shown us the way football should be played. Just go back to Peyton's interview on Dave Letterman's show after the SEC Championship win in 1997. He stated he would rather play in the South (didn't get that) and on grass (nor that one). Fortunately he went above and beyond. We fans should insist on the same above and beyond, and insist on natural grass. Sounds like a 60's song.

allvol32 writes:

in response to LaneKiffinISyourDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How many times have you been banned da? The one thing that you can be sure of is that if there is a Kiffin in the handle then there is a moron on the keyboard.

Grow you up you immature punk.

Keep banning this fool KNS.

LJS1984 writes:

in response to BxVol:

I was a student when the artificial turf was installed and as I remember it was not Astro Turf, it was Tarten Turf made by another company.Stokely Athletic Center removed the wood floor and also used a Tarten floor which was designed to have more give and prevent injuries.

Thanks for clarifying that. I wasn't around in '68. However, I'm going off topic again. People that complain about the SEC making so much money off the "student athletes" need to realize that's just the way the world works. You can be the most talented guy at McDonalds at squirting the Big Mac sauce on the Big Mac and expect what you get in most cases (minimum wage). If you are savvy enough you can work your way up (that's what's great about America), in college football and the real world you can make plenty of money (at McDonalds as a manager or in the NFL as a player). The guys playing college football already have it better than the guy in the burger line at McDonalds. It's what you make of yourself, because in the REAL WORLD people (managers, execs, etc.) are always making money off of YOU and YOUR hard work. That's why we live in a society that should and nine times out of ten does reward good, honest, hard workers.

quickslant writes:

in response to revols21:

You're right, your're more of a beotch than a bro. That is for certain.

There is no leftover frustration over Kiffin leaving. Like I said before, his smokin-hot wife was the only reason he was welcomed like he was.

The difference between UT & SC is UT is on the way back up and SC is headed down, and fast. Maybe by 2020, they may actually have a good team again. Kiffin and the trojans are actually a good fit, put a little pressure on them and they burst. Come to think of it, maybe he could be a spokesperson for Trojan.

Fight ON MORON!

"...Kiffin and the trojans are actually a good fit, put a little pressure on them and they burst. Come to think of it, maybe he could be a spokesperson for Trojan."

Dude, that was awesome.
Bravo!

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