Rams’ New Turf is ‘Green’ and Grows the Bottom Line

21 Oct

Edward Jones Dome's new turf set up for the St. Louis Rams.

The St. Louis Rams opened their season at the Edward Jones Dome on new removable artificial turf that allows faster changeovers and is environmentally friendly.

The new field includes Magic Carpet II, a conversion system that lets the venue roll up the turf and store it underneath the stadium floor between games. The GameDay Game 3D synthetic turf also contains soybean oil instead of petroleum-based polymers, making it a “green” product.

“What drove us to it was that the system in place, Magic Carpet, rolls up and goes away,” said Nick Langella, general manager of the Edward Jones Dome. “It used to take three days to turnover, and every turnover cost $150,000 in labor and [expenses.] It was complete chaos.”

Since the new turf was installed Aug. 1, that has changed.

“Now we can put the field down in 20 minutes and it takes 8 to 10 hours to change it over to a show floor,” Langella said. The cost was higher, he said, but the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC), which operates the America’s Center complex, and Rams management agreed the change was worth the investment.

“Synthetic fields run between $600,000 and $800,000,” he said. “This was a $2.5 million system. It has already paid good dividends, we have put three or four more pieces of business in that we could not have had last year.”

The $2.5 million price tag will be paid for from the stadium authority’s preservation fund and from money left over from the Dome’s $30 million renovation project last year.

The turf on the playing field is one large piece, with the exception of the side panels, said Todd Britton, marketing director for AstroTurf. The GameDay Grass 3D turf has a taller pile than other synthetic turfs, which makes the field piece heavy.

“The football field is 200 tons,” Britton said. “It has three pounds of rubber per square foot. The roller blows air underneath it to reduce friction and that lets them roll it out in under 30 minutes. They roll it out, then groom it for four to six hours.”

It is also environmentally friendly. The soy-based polyurethane backing system replaces petroleum-based polymers used in similar backing components. It also contains coal fly ash, a byproduct from coal-fired power plants and furnaces, according to Andy Belles, Biocel marketing director. Those factors make the turf’s backing durable, safer to handle than petrochemical products, and more fire retardant. Venues can also use it to apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points.

“Because the coal fly ash has been through an incinerator and been burned, it is already flame retardant,” Belles said. “[Biocel] replaces 70 percent of the petroleum in the backing with a byproduct of soybean oil. That is a short-term renewable resource, grown by American farmers.”

Because the backing is soy, it has low volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Biocel was developed  with the support of the United Soybean Board, Belles said.

Langella said all of that was a bonus. “It was a nice thing that it had [the environmental features] but that was not the mission,” Langella said. “We didn’t go out and say let’s get a ‘green’ field.’”

For the football players, it means “they were playing on a quarter-inch carpet, and are now on a one-and-three-quarter-inch carpet,” Langella said. “The players are very happy when it is down, and we are very happy when it goes away.” — Liz Boardman

Contacts: Nick Langella, (314) 342-5025; Todd Britton, (706) 217-9690; Andy Gelles, (706) 271-5654.


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