Astro Turf History

Astro Turf History

As Good As Grass Editor remarks:

Many of our readers have asked how synthetic grass was first developed and where the name astro turf originated – this article provides the answers. Please be aware that As Good As Grass is not associated with the AstroTurf or Chemgras brand.

Chemgrass at the Astrodome

During the 1950s, the Ford Foundation studied ways to incorporate physical fitness into the lives of young people, particularly in cities where outdoor play areas were scarce. Ford joined Monsanto Industries to create an artificial surface on which children could play sports. In 1964 the first artificial playing surface was marketed under the name Chemgrass.

Meanwhile, the first domed stadium was being built in Houston, Texas. The Astrodome with its retractable translucent plastic ceiling let in enough sunshine to maintain a natural grass field. After the first baseball season, it was clear there was a problem. The plastic window panes produced a glare that made it difficult for players to see the ball. This problem was solved by painting the panes black but then the grass began to die from lack of sunlight.

By the beginning of the second season, the Astros were playing on dead grass and painted dirt. At this time, production of Chemgrass was limited but what little was available was installed in the Astrodome. By the end of the 1966 season, the material had been renamed Astroturf. The green nylon carpet was a success.

Popularity of Astroturf

The popularity of Astroturf grew steadily during the 1970s and 1980s, with most of its use in professional sports arenas. However, a backlash began to unfold when players started to complain about the surface.

The English Football Association banned synthetic turf in 1988, mainly because of complaints from athletes that it was harder than grass and caused more injuries. Similar concerns were growing in the United States. This sentiment was famously expressed by baseball player Dick Allen: “If a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.” The movement against Astroturf gained traction and many baseball grounds were converted back to natural grass during the 1990s.

Third Generation Artificial Grass

The manufacturing process of artificial grass has come a long way from the 1966 Astrodome. Third generation turf is now coated in silicone to avoid friction burns, installed with a shock pad base to reduce impact and more closely imitates the appearance of natural grass. Modern sports are thus once again starting to embrace artificial turf in favour of natural grass.

There are many advantages to artificial grass such as lower maintenance requirements, higher durability and now better safety due to the shock pad base. As artificial grass is now very realistic, many homeowners are starting to use the product as a lawn surface. Many artificial lawn products are available from economy grass through to premium four tone, moss filled, non-uniform piled grass (blades of grass are varying lengths) to create the perfect garden lawn. View the As Good As Grass photo gallery for examples of how plastic turf can revolutionise a back yard.

From homeowners and schools through to sports organisations and event organisers, everyone can benefit from the unique qualities of third generation turf.

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