Inspired by Play: The History of Artificial Grass
July 1, 2019
Water-saving artificial turf is now commonplace in front yards and sports arenas across the globe. But the humble beginnings of artificial grass looked nothing like the turf of today, and the creation of artificial turf was inspired by a single idea—play.
The 1950s: Leveling the Playing Field
In the mid-1930s, Henry and Edsel Ford established The Ford Foundation with the mission to advance human welfare with scientific, academic, and charitable contributions. In the 1950s, The Ford Foundation conducted a study on youth fitness, and found notable differences in the physicality of rural and urban youth—rural youth were in much better physical shape. And through the study, it was determined that the reasoning for this advantage was the difference in their playing surfaces.
Urban youth had the disadvantage of hard surfaces—asphalt, concrete, and flooring with little give. But around the same time, The Chemstrand Company, a subsidiary of Monsanto, was working to develop synthetic fiber carpeting. The two ideas naturally merged—Monsanto Industries, the Ford Foundation, and Chemstrand interlinked to create a synthetic fiber “carpet” that would serve as the perfect playing surface for indoor use.
The 1960s: The Birth of Artificial Turf
The new playing surface had to have distinct elements that made it safe for use in schools. The Creative Products group, an offshoot of Chemstrand’s organization, worked to develop a synthetic material that had adequate foot traction, weather drainage, wear resistance, and flame resistance.
In 1964, the first large-scale installation, called ChemGrass, was set at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island. But it was next year’s event that set artificial turf’s wheels in motion.
In 1965, Judge Roy Hofheinz built the Astrodome—the world’s first domed stadium. The stadium was the first of its kind and was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” upon completion. But due to the nature of the stadium, it was difficult to keep real grass alive. So the new home of the University of Houston’s football team installed ChemGrass in 1966, and the artificial grass was later called Astroturf, after the name of the stadium.
Astroturf’s popularity ignited immediately following its welcome arrival at the Astrodome. A patent for artificial turf was issued in 1967, and Indiana State University became the first outdoor stadium to install Astroturf that very year, followed by Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, and Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium in the 1970s.
Second Generation Artificial Turf
In the 1970s, a new formula with a better aesthetic and less abrasive feel was introduced. “Shag turf” looked a tad better than its predecessor, but still didn’t make the cut for sports like soccer.
Turf of the 90s
The mid-90s are responsible for improvements to the fibers, using a blend of softer polyethylene blades to create a look and feel of real grass seen in yards and across athletic fields today. Instead of sand infill, crumb rubber infill was introduced, providing more comfort for athletic ventures.
Since the improvements of the 90s, there have been more advances that have brought artificial turf steps closer to real-life grass—like EasyTurf’s proprietary MaxxFlow technology, allowing for superior drainage and permeability. And as artificial turf further popularizes, we’ll be sure to see even better blades sprouting up at more homes and arenas in the coming years.
Ready to start saving by making the switch to artificial turf? EasyTurf’s unique artificial grass has never looked—or felt—so real.