Synthetic turf the way to go in Cincinnati

Updated: February 3, 2004, 8:40 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals are abandoning efforts to grow a natural grass field in Paul Brown Stadium.

Despite underground heating and irrigation, a new mix of the sand and dirt base, and creation of their own turf farm, the Bengals have not been able to create a surface that will stand up to play in the 4-year-old stadium.

Bengals players, especially kickers and running backs, have been critical of the footing, and opposing teams have complained.

"Worst field I've ever played on in my life," San Diego's Rodney Harrison said in 2002. "I just don't understand how you can spend all that money for a new stadium and have the worst grass in the NFL."

The Bengals are responsible for maintaining the field at the publicly owned stadium, which opened for the 2000 season. The grass quickly deteriorated during the first season. The Bengals installed a different type of grass the next year, but it, too, came up in clumps.

Hamilton County, which built and owns the stadium, considered putting in artificial turf before the 2002 season but decided to stick with grass and had the Bengals resod more often.

In a letter Tuesday to county officials, the Bengals said they would pay for installation of synthetic turf. The cost will not be known until a vendor and brand are selected, the Bengals said. They expect it to be the "in-fill" variety used in Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans, New York and Seattle, all installed since 2002.

A synthetic in-fill surface is a loose-fiber system that looks, feels and plays like natural grass, the Bengals said. It is softer than earlier artificial turf and safer because it minimizes compression injuries.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said players have had favorable experiences on synthetic in-fill turf in other stadiums.

"They've been very pleased with the consistency of the surface," Lewis said. "The development of these new surfaces have given teams some new options as opposed to grass."

Installation is expected to be completed by early summer.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press