Artificial Grass is a product we have only recently started stocking, and it has already garnered some interest, so we thought you might appreciate an introduction to this mysterious material and its properties...
The First Seeds
Artificial Grass was not originally designed for domestic use or even public spaces - it was made for indoor stadiums and other sports grounds where real grass couldn’t flourish (due to lack of light) or required extra maintenance.
Research for ‘artificial sports surfaces’ had been going on since the mid 1950s, primarily by the Ford Foundation - their humanitarian goals led them to focus on its use in schools, particularly in urban areas, to see if providing better sports facilities could help improve children’s health. However, the idea only came to fruition (and commercial viability) when it began to be installed in baseball stadiums in the mid 1960s.
Putting Down Roots
It was in 1965 that Chemstrand, a subsidiary of Monsanto - now more well-known for its agribusiness - created the standard for artificial grass.
First released under the slightly less appealing soubriquet of ‘ChemGrass’ - a name that would never get passed marketers now - ‘AstroTurf’ was installed in the 9-acre, 42,000 seater Houston Astrodome the following year. Its new name, taken from the stadium by savvy marketing man John Wortmann (so the story goes) was trademarked in 1967, and soon became synonymous with all artificial grass.
Fun fact - when a brand name gains prominence in this way (e.g. Hoover, Thermos, Sellotape) it is referred to as being ‘genericised’.
Also, although it is still a trademarked name, Monsanto no longer own it - it was passed on in the 90s and now belongs to the American Sports Products Group Inc - another name which was clearly not designed by marketers!
On the heels of the Houston Astros, in 1967 AstroTurf was installed in Indiana State University’s outdoor Memorial Stadium and in 1969 the Chicago White Sox had it put down in there then-playing ground of Comiskey Park.
Through the 1970s it grew so ubiquitous in American baseball that it actually changed the style of play - the ball behaved differently on the artificial surfaces, so players had to compensate. The NFL also followed suite, as did many UK football clubs in the 1980s.
However, artificial grass wasn’t without its critics.
The fact that in the early days it was almost always laid directly on concrete (rather than the modern installations, designed for more ‘give’) often meant extra strain placed on players’ joints. It was not uncommon for early versions of artificial grass (particularly those which sprung up in the wake of AstroTurf and were more cheaply made) to get very hot and even melt under the Sun and stadium lighting!
Grazes or ‘rug-burns’ were common for these trial products - all these factors led to many stadiums returning to real grass (including the aforementioned Comiskey Park, in 1976) , and in the 1990s the new, softer product ‘FieldTurf’ (made by French company Tarkett Inc) temporarily replaced AstroTurf as the standard for sports grounds.
Despite these issues it is still very popular, with around 1,200 new installations every year - in fact, it’s popular enough that there is actually a ‘Synthetic Turf Council’ (dedicated to ‘improving the world through synthetic turf’), who provided this very statistic!