The Arizona Diamondbacks announced today that they are switching from natural grass to artificial turf. The synthetic stuff will be ready to go for the 2019 season.
Team president Derrick Hall, who calls the it “state-of-art” synthetic grass, says it will be better for players as the type of natural grass that they could get to grow in the challenging environment of “indoors and in the desert” was hard and rather unforgiving and had a tendency to break up and cause players to slip. It’ll be better for fans too, Hall says, because they won’t have to keep the roof open during the day to grow the grass, which makes it rather stuffy in the ballpark until the air conditioner has had a chance to catch up in the evening. It’ll obviously help save on cooling costs and will conserve a lot of water as well. According to the Diamondbacks it’ll cut water usage by 90% and will save two million gallons a year.
All of which makes one wonder why they bothered to build a retractable roof ballpark instead of a straight dome in the first place. I suppose the answer is “it was the 90s and we still believed we could do difficult things fairly easily then” or something like it. It probably also has to do with fake grass being better now than it was over 20 years ago when Chase Field was designed.
From an aesthetics standpoint, it will not look like those 1970s turf fields, as the warning track, the infield, and the path between home plate and the mound will remain dirt as opposed to having those sliding pits that used to be so common.
I’m generally pro-grass and anti-turf, but I think it’s fair to suspend those preferences when we’re talking about playing in the desert. If it was for no reason other than water and energy savings it’d be worth it, but given that the grass in Chase Field is not up to snuff should make it a pretty easy case to go fake.