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Sports

Bank of America Stadium switching to synthetic playing surface
Addition of soccer makes transition necessary
 
Published Wednesday, April 28, 2021 6:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | HERBERT L. WHITE
Bank of America Stadium's playing surface will be transitioned to FieldTurf ahead of the Carolina Panthers' 2021 season. The addition of Major League Soccer matches would cause more stress on grass, making the switch to synthetic economically feasible.

Bank of America Stadium is switching to an artificial surface.

Tepper Sports & Entertainment announced today they would shift away from grass to FieldTurf ahead of the 2021 Carolina Panthers season, with the transition expected to begin in a matter of days.

“[David Tepper’s] vision is for the building to be a community asset,” Tepper Sports & Entertainment vice president and chief operating officer Mark Hart said in a team statement. “With two major professional sports franchises using Bank of America Stadium, and more events upcoming, having a natural grass surface is going to be a heavy lift. We believe a synthetic surface provides the best solution.”

FieldTurf Tarkett is a division of French company Tarkett Inc. Fibers are produced in Germany, followed by the tufting and coating process in Calhoun, Georgia. FieldTurf is well known around the NFL and MLS at stadiums and practice facilities, including the Panthers’ Atrium Health Dome. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which houses both the Falcons and Atlanta United, uses FieldTurf, as does Seattle’s Lumen Field, which is home to the Seahawks and Sounders and New England’s Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots and Revolution play.

Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and the New York Giants/Jets play on field turf. Other MLS teams playing on artificial surfaces include Portland and Vancouver, with 13 clubs utilizing FieldTurf at practice facilities.

The Panthers will continue to practice primarily on grass, with the transition to their 2023 Rock Hill practice facility featuring three full-size outdoor grass fields, outdoor and indoor artificial surface fields.

Hart said FieldTurf’s life expectancy is up to a decade, but the organization intends to replace the top layer every two to three years.

FieldTurf, like most artificial surfaces, boasts that unlike grass, it does not need time to recover. TSE said it’s concerned about maintaining grass with the addition of up to 30 MLS matches, particularly when its season overlaps with the NFL in addition to college and potential high school football, Charlotte FC academy matches, concerts and other events. Artificial turf means they do not need to re-sod, water or mow the surface.

TSE it reached out to Charlotte FC and Panthers players to update them on the artificial surface decision.

However, artificial surfaces are not without their drawbacks. NFL Players Association President JC Tretter wrote in 2020 the union would prefer teams play on natural surfaces for health and safety purposes.

“Professional football players put extremely high levels of force and rotation onto the playing surface,” Tretter wrote. “Grass will eventually give, which often releases the cleat prior to reaching an injurious load. On synthetic surfaces, there is less give, meaning our feet, ankles and knees absorb the force, which makes injury more likely to follow.”

Tretter also cited data displaying that artificial surfaces result in higher injury rates: “Based on NFL injury data collected from 2012 to 2018, not only was the contact injury rate for lower extremities higher during practices and games held on artificial turf, NFL players consistently experienced a much higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on turf compared to natural surfaces,” he said. “Specifically, players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.”

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