Ravens install new artificial turf at stadium

BALTIMORE – The Baltimore Ravens have upgraded the artificial turf at M&T Bank Stadium, a $1 million investment the team hopes will pay dividends in terms of safety and field longevity. The Ravens unveiled the updated version of the Sportexe surface Wednesday, displaying a thicker, greener version called Momentum 51.

After making their initial shift from natural grass seven years ago, this marks the first time the Ravens have installed a new surface.

"I have been on lot of other turfs, from my working on those fields, I feel like this is the best product on the market," Ravens head groundskeeper Don Follett said. "This actually has more resilience and feels better under your feet. There was the original AstroTurf, but you might as well have been playing out in the parking lot.

"It was really brutal stuff. This material really feels like natural grass. It's really nice that way. It's safer, and that's why we pulled the trigger."

It would have initially been roughly half as expensive to use natural grass, but the future upkeep would have exceeded $1 million.

The first athletic event on the new surface is the NCAA lacrosse championships later this month.

And the Ravens will play their first game on the turf against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 12 when they open the preseason.

"Our goal is to have the safest, most consistent playing surface in the NFL, and we believe we have it with Momentum 51," team president Dick Cass said "Our old field, which would have been serviceable for a few more years, provided consistency in footing in every type of weather. It was also regularly graded highly by the players."

This time, the Ravens don't have team logos emblazoned permanently on the end zones or at midfield.

The Ravens wanted to have the flexibility to be able to tailor the logos when they host lacrosse, college football and high school football games. So, the decision makes sense from a marketing standpoint.

"It holds up with 300-pound offensive linemen digging in and with fast-moving games like lacrosse and soccer," vice president of stadium operations Roy Sommerhof said. "Competing in bad weather does not slow the athletes and does not damage the field. Those events may not be able to be played here if we didn't have a surface like this."

It took the Ravens roughly two weeks to put in the new surface, which is a few inches deep with a billion synthetic grass blades that extend over 108,000 square feet.

The next step is to apply a 50-50 mixture of sand and rubber. The rubber is derived from car tires.

Each square foot includes 6 1/2 pounds of sand and rubber for a total of 767,000 pounds for the entire field.

"It's so bright, and you won't see a divot come up," Follett said. "It drains so well. We could have two weeks of rainfall and there would be no standing water on it. We won't have situations like they had in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago where the punts stuck in the ground."

The Ravens ranked third in the league in terms of best artificial surfaces during the most recent NFL Players Association survey, seventh overall in the league among all surfaces.

Sportexe also provides the practice and stadium fields for the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as Alabama, LSU, Cal, Loyola and Johns Hopkins.

"The manufacturer said the carpet should last 10 years, we went seven years," Follett said. "It was getting to the point where it was getting difficult for me to keep the softness where it is similar to natural turf.

"That's why we went ahead and replaced the turf at this point. It also gave us the opportunity to get the flexibility to take out the stitching in the end zone."

The field hasn't been tested by any football players yet, but Follett predicted kickers Billy Cundiff and Sam Koch will try it out soon enough.

"Those guys are the ones that really feel it under their feet," Follett said. "So, they are my benchmark as to how it's performing."

NOTE: The Ravens have also upgraded their larger video boards to high-definition. It's akin to a big-screen television, but it's 24 feet tall with a 100-foot width.

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