Friday, February 6, 2004

Finally, bring on the artificial turf


After four years of the mud and scrub that made up the worst playing surface in the National Football League, the Bengals are installing artificial turf in Paul Brown Stadium.

On the upside, players will be able to hold their footing better and be less susceptible to injury, the field won't have to be constantly resodded, expenses for those who want to use the field for other events can be reduced, and Hamilton County will save more than $100,000 in annual upkeep.

That latter is a big plus for taxpayers, many of whom are still unhappy over the original $500 million cost of the stadium and the team's reluctance to let the field be trod by anything other than the dainty steps of professional football players. No longer will high school marching bands have to fear where they tread.

The problem with the sod seemed insolvable. It would not grow in Paul Brown, partly because of the way the stadium was situated, experts have said. No matter how much care groundskeepers gave the turf, even after $1.4 million was spent on a heating system to extend the growing season, the grass just wouldn't hold up.

Running back Corey Dillon blamed the field for his groin injury last season and players routinely ranked it among the worst surfaces in the league.

Hamilton County taxpayers won't have to foot the bill. The Bengals said they will pay for the new artificial turf, which has cost as much as $1 million in other cities.

Earlier versions of artificial turf were extremely tough on players, and were blamed for many injuries, but newer brands mimic the playing conditions of real grass. They are characterized by longer blades of "grass."

If the turf can save money over the long term, turn Paul Brown into more of a multiuse facility and decrease the risk of injuries to players, it will be worth the investment.

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