Warriors like Tulsa's turf
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By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
TULSA, Okla. Here, along the Arkansas River, the University of Hawai'i football team has glimpsed its field of polyethylene and polypropylene dreams.
At nationally-ranked Jenks High School, where they practiced last night, and at Skelly Stadium, where they will play the University of Tulsa tomorrow and elsewhere along the way, the Warriors have reveled in the almost-like-grass synthetic surface known as FieldTurf.
An artificial surface of individual blades infilled by silica sand and ground rubber, it looks like grass, it feels almost like grass and, say players, it plays like grass, but without the liability of being worn down to mud when it rains.
With the state obligated by its Pro Bowl contract with the NFL to replace the AstroTurf that has been a staple of Aloha Stadium since its 1975 opening, the Warriors' voice is but one in the chorus that wants a say in which surface will be installed.
But as a consultant for the Hawai'i Tourism Authority prepares a report scheduled to be delivered next month, the Warriors' voice as a prime tenant is one worth considering.
In the five games played to date this season, the Warriors have seen what figure to be the main contenders: grass (Maui), FieldTurf (Nevada), AstroTurf (Aloha Stadium) and SportGrass (Southern Methodist).
And the winner, said head coach June Jones, "isn't close. FieldTurf is the best. It is softer than AstroTurf, there are no turf burns and less injuries."
"It is the best there is," said Keith Burns, the Tulsa coach, whose school spent approximately $800,000 for the renovation. "We've had it for two seasons now and haven't had a knee or ankle injury on it. Everybody that plays on it looks into getting it for their stadiums."
Indeed, FieldTurf is riding a wave of popularity. St. Louis School has it, so does Nebraska, Washington, Oregon, Washington State, Oregon State and Cincinnati.
UH linebacker Joe Correia, a veteran of two foot operations, says, "I can feel a big difference on my ankles, knees and feet between it (FieldTurf) and what we have at Aloha Stadium."
George Toma, supervisor of fields for the NFL, says natural grass is the best choice for stadiums, but given the wear and tear Aloha Stadium is subjected to over the course of a football season that takes in both high school and UH games, "FieldTurf is definitely another option."
FieldTurf does not come without its questions, however. For example, how easy it would be to paint and remove the various logos and marking lines over the course of a season? Would the surface stand up to the burdens of varied use (concerts etc.) and demands of a multi-purpose stadium, and how long of a guarantee would come with it?
"All I know," Jones said, "is there are two things acceptable to the NFL natural grass and FieldTurf and this is the best artificial surface we've seen."