First Time Around:
Prompted by ways to improve inner city youth’s physical fitness, The Ford Foundation’s Education Facilities Laboratory, along with Monsanto Industries and Chemstrand, began encouraging the use of synthetic fiber carpeting in schools in the late 1950’s.
From 1962 through 1966, The Creative Group, Chemstrand’s research organization, worked on new playing surfaces and tested the surface for foot traction, water drainage, flammability and water resistance.
In 1964, the organization installed a synthetic turf referred to as “Chemgrass” at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island. This was the first large-scale synthetic grass installation.
After the Houston Astrodome was built in 1965, conditions did not allow the newly built field to provide efficient grass-growing conditions. The field’s dirt was often painted green and patches of dead grass lingered in the outfield. As a result, Astrodome developer Judge Roy Hofheinz consulted Monsanto about installing Chemgrass in 1965.
In 1966 Major League Baseball team, the Houston Astros, began their season playing on Chemgrass, which was renamed to the staple trademark known as “Astroturf.” This first generation turf began as a tightly curled nylon fiber that was woven into a foam backing.
The first form of synthetic grass known as “Astroturf” was invented by James M. Faria and Robert T. Wright of The Chemstrand Company, a subsidiary of Monsanto Industries in the late 1950’s. On July 25, 1967, a patent was issued for artificial turf by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and synthetic turf was officially “born.”
After the success of the Astrodome, Indiana State University Stadium became the first outdoor stadium to install artificial turf in 1967.
Slowly but surely, first generation synthetic grass became a popular commodity in sports arenas across the United States and Canada. Places like Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium and Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium followed the Astroturf trend throughout the 1970’s.
In the 1970’s, the second generation of artificial turf was introduced as “shag turf.” The new yarns were made of polypropylene and proved to be less abrasive than its first generation predecessor. It also had a more flattering appearance. The tufts were spread widely apart in order to mimic a real grass appearance.
Although second generation turf eventually proved to be acceptable for sports like field hockey, it was less suitable for sports like soccer as the playing characteristics and the actual ball behavior did not match the capabilities of natural grass. It was not until 1996 that a synthetic turf soccer field proved to be truly suitable for the sport.
Third Time’s a Charm:
In the mid-1990’s, third generation of artificial turf made its way to the lime light by featuring polyethylene yarn fibers along with many revolutionary improvements to the general turf system. This is what one would see in any residential yard, commercial property and sports field today!
The majority of the turf fibers are created with polyethylene, which is softer than the second generation’s polypropylene blades. Third generation synthetic turf also features longer fibers which are spaced further apart as well as a “thatch” or dead grass yarn, situated in the yarn and backing. In order to provide better turf form, function and stability, infill was introduced to the synthetic grass industry and has added an extra comfort to playing surfaces by putting less stress on player’s joints while allowing for adequate foot traction.