When the Conference USA Champion Rice Owls take the field for the start of 2014 spring football practice on March 11, they will do so on a new playing surface that marks a return of a familiar brand name to Rice Stadium.
The Owls have selected AstroTurf to install its new 3D60H synthetic turf system at Rice Stadium to replace the current surface. The product features a monofilament Horseshoe™ fiber, sand and rubber infill, and AstroTurf’s patented RootZone® technology. The monofilament Horseshoe fiber has an omega shape (Ω), giving the “blades of grass” structure and resiliency. The RootZone is a proprietary infill stabilization system of textured nylon that holds the infill in place, preventing splash and migration. The result is a clean, consistent playing surface which has garnered rave reviews for its performance, durability and safety.
“I had the opportunity to visit one of their next generation fields down at Barbers Hill and I was impressed,” Rice head coach David Bailiff said. “The innovative technology behind their product combined with the integrity of the company and their people made the decision an easy one for our staff here at Rice.”
The new AstroTurf field exemplifies a fresh concept in the artificial turf industry known as ‘DIG’ (Density/Infill/Gauge). Turf with high fiber Density, lightweight Infill, and narrow Gauge – or low DIG – tend to perform more like natural grass and allow cleats to penetrate and release properly. Other turf systems with heavy infill, less fiber and wider rows – or high DIG – can trap cleats that dig in, potentially resulting in a higher frequency of lower leg injuries. A Michigan State study funded by NFL Charities exhibits the science behind AstroTurf’s superiority in this regard. A link to that study, as well as a video illustration of the DIG principles upon which the AstroTurf 3D turf systems are built, can both be found on the company’s website.
Rice Stadium was built in 1950 and the Owls played on natural grass surfaces until 1968 when Rice Stadium became one of the earliest Division I football fields converted to AstroTurf. It was fitting that the stadium, located less than two miles from the venue that introduced AstroTurf to the world, the Houston Astrodome, would embrace the new playing surface. That switch allowed the stadium to record another milestone in 1974 when it played host to the first Super Bowl ever played on AstroTurf (Super Bowl VIII).
“We are honored to have AstroTurf selected for the new playing surface at Rice Stadium,” said company president Bryan Peeples. “Rice University, its stadium, and the Houston community at large have played important roles in the AstroTurf story. We’re excited to introduce them to our next generation turf system, which is considered the finest playing surface in the world.”
Of course Coach Bailiff and the Owls have already written themselves into the lore of Rice Athletics after a 10-win campaign in 2013 that included a Conference USA championship. The 2013 C-USA Coach of the Year recipient and Bear Bryant Award finalist is now responsible for two of the school’s three 10-win seasons, and has them coming off consecutive bowl appearances for only the second time in school history. On the heels of another successful recruiting effort that wrapped up at the start of February, Bailiff and his coaches are excited to welcome back the championship squad for the start of Spring Practice on their new AstroTurf playing surface.
Installation of the new AstroTurf 3D60H synthetic turf system at Rice Stadium will be handled by Texas-based AstroBuilders, a certified AstroTurf installer. The project has a firm deadline for completion set for March 11th. Such demands are par for the course for the team at AstroBuilders, whose impressive resume includes last spring’s conversion of the Alamodome for that venue’s first ever weekend of Major League Baseball. Trusted partner Burnside Services will be on hand for any necessary foundational repair and subsurface re-grading.
“Several key factors were involved in our decision to go with AstroTurf,” said Rice University Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard. “Chief among those were quality of the playing surface, reputation of the company and its partners, and the ability to complete the project on time. Our research indicated a clear match between our needs and AstroTurf.”
Of course, ensuring a smooth and timely installation has become much easier with the introduction of AstroTurf’s patented PREFAB process. Permanent inlays (hash marks, arrows, etc.) are precision cut, placed, glued and rigorously inspected by certified professionals in AstroTurf’s climate controlled factory in Dalton, Georgia before being shipped out. The technique can shave several days off of on-site construction time while reducing installation variables that could delay or hinder a project’s completion. Rice Stadium’s 90,600 square foot field will be a PREFAB turf system. On-site turf installation at Rice Stadium will be live updated with continuous shooting photography on AstroTurf’s website.