Saints look at replacements for AstroTurf

Updated: October 2, 2003, 4:07 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Saints cornerback Ashley Ambrose walked off the small rectangle of turf on Thursday smiling.

"That's a lot better than what we have," Ambrose said, nodding at the sections of artificial turf he'd been examining. "Playing on that stuff you might not get hurt and you sure wouldn't get the burns you get from our turf now."

The Saints players, coaches and officials got a look at two types of artificial turf and the pallets the Superdome hopes to use to install one of the surfaces.

The Dome, which is on its third version of AstroTurf, is looking for a newer product that will be easier on the players and produce fewer injuries.

The Saints have an extensive list of injuries, including seven defensive starters who will miss Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

"These infield systems are the new technology," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said of the two samples on display Thursday. "I think they are much softer and we need to get one down as soon as possible."

Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly was also at the Saints facility inspecting the two surfaces. Casserly refused to discuss why he was there or the grass surface currently in the Texans' stadium.

Reliant Stadium, the $449 million stadium built for Houston,has a grass field which is portable, using about 1,250 64-square-foot modules of sod. The stadium has an open roof, and new technology that allows more light to filter through the fabric panels when it's closed, which allows the grass to grow. The modular system allows damaged turf to be removed.

The two surfaces on display at the Saints camp were Astroplay, which is currently used in the Buffalo Bills stadium and in the Saints indoor practice facility, and Field Turf, which is in Detroit and Atlanta.

Both have thick green, grass-type material and a sand-granulated rubber fill that provides cushion.

The Superdome could put the surface down permanently and discard it at the end of each season. That would be a relatively cheap solution, costing about $500,000 a year. It would present problems for painting various names and logos on the surface, which is used by the Saints, Tulane, Sugar Bowl, Bayou Classic and high school teams.

If the field was installed on the Dome surface and officials did not discard it at the end of each season, they would have to get an expensive cover for it when the building hosts non-football events.

The most practical approach would be to have the turf installed on eight-foot-by-eight-foot pallets, which could be removed and stored after the season.

The cost of the pallet system would be about $3 million. It would last eight or more years, said Doug Thornton, who manages the Superdome.

"We'd like to have a new surface by 2004," Thornton said. "But there are a lot of things to consider."

"I hope they get it," said guard LeCharles Bentley. "It would really make a difference."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index