Rays to install new, improved turf at Tropicana Field
The Rays are planning to install new turf at Tropicana Field before Opening Day.
The Rays expect the change to the Shaw Sports Turf to be easier on their players, provide a firmer and truer surface and look better. One prime feature will be the installation of a hard foam pad between the concrete base and the turf, which, like the previous AstroTurf, has fiber blades with a rubber in-fill system.
"Unsurprisingly, turf technology has evolved in the last five years and we think the new turf will be better for our players' bodies and play a little truer, and aesthetically will be an improvement on TV and in person,'' team president Brian Auld said.
The Rays are paying for the new turf, which will cost around $1-million, pending final details being worked out with Shaw. The agreement also includes installation of a turf infield and a practice area at the team's Port Charlotte facility, and that work has begun. Installation of the 1.1-million square feet field at the Trop is expected to be concluded in time for the team to get to check it out in the final week before the April 2 season opener.
The new turf replaces AstroTurf that was installed in 2011 as part of a sponsorship deal through Major League Baseball.
After looking at samples from four companies, the Rays chose Shaw, which will provide the fifth different surface in 20 years of play at the domed stadium. The then Devil-Rays started play in 1998 on flat AstroTurf, then switched to a more grass-looking FieldTurf surface in 2000 (at a reported cost of $1-million), then another in 2007 before the switch to AstroTurf in 2011.
"We continue to invest in Tropicana Field,'' Auld said. "It's our home and we want to make it the best venue we can for Major League Baseball.''
The Rays will continue to feature all-dirt base paths with turf on the infield and outfield. The new turf will be "a touch darker,'' Auld said and feature shallower fill which should keep the blades standing up and create less "splash" when a ball hits the surface.
Shaw has not outfitted any major-league or minor-league parks, per the company website, but has done several large amateur and major-college (Maryland, Memphis) fields, as well as the NFL Baltimore Raves practice facility.