New surface to debut at Revs home opener

Upgraded FieldTurf promises better ball handling

Saturday’s match between the New England Revolution and Toronto FC at Gillette Stadium will feature several firsts.

It will mark the first home game for the Revs in 2010, the first match as captain for Toronto’s Dwayne De Rosario and the first match ever played in America on Duraspine Pro.

That’s the name of the latest generation of FieldTurf that has recently been installed at Gillette Stadium. It represents an upgrade of the previous generation of FieldTurf used in Foxborough, and it will serve as the stage for the Revolution and New England Patriots of the NFL.

“The surface will set the stadium apart, particularly for soccer events, which pay close attention to the differences in playing surface dynamics when choosing venues,” said Jonathan Kraft, President of The Kraft Group which owns the Revolution.

There is only one other stadium in the entire world that sports FieldTurf’s Duraspine Pro turf. That facility belongs to FC Volendam in the Netherlands. In five weeks the Chicago Fire will conclude installation of the same surface for another training field outside Toyota Park.

After Toronto FC decided on natural grass surface for BMO Field in 2010, the Seattle Sounders are the only other MLS club to play on FieldTurf, but not Gillette Stadium’s Duraspine Pro variety.

According to FieldTurf, players at Gillette will notice the differences on the new field, especially when it comes to the ball roll, which they say is the closest to the roll on natural grass. The upgrade lies in the individual fibers, which are more durable, stand up longer and are 50 percent softer.

“There is more weight to the fiber,” said Jim Froslid, Director of Soccer Development for FieldTurf. “FieldTurf has been friendly to sliding and now it’s even friendlier.”

The stronger, thicker fibers will not only ensure a greener looking surface but they will also help make painting and removing lines on the field that much easier.

Gillette Stadium is in the running to be a venue in the USA bid for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup. That makes FIFA 2-star certification, which clears the way for a venue to host a World Cup final, an essential step even if it comes at a cost.

“We completed our FIFA 2-star testing this week and all the feedback was 100 percent positive” said Jim Nolan, VP of Stadium Operations at Gillette Stadium. “We expect shortly to receive the certificate from FIFA.”

The installation began back in February and Nolan says the entire project was completed by March 16, a span of three weeks.

Froslid says it usually takes 30-60 days for the infill to settle in, although rain and foot traffic speed up that process. Depending on how much it has settled, fans may see more splash (rubber kicking up) and the field might play a little softer to start.

“We don’t think it’s too soft,” Nolan said. “As part of this process to break it in we rolled the field with a steam roller between the application of the sand and rubber to help compact it. The big help came from Mother Nature which dumped 15 inches of rain, the second highest rainfall amount in any month in Boston history. It came right after we finished installation. The volume of that rain helped compact it [the surface]. We expect to see no issues with respect to the field.”

The new surface has already played host to a New England Lacrosse Classic on April 3, featuring Ivy League colleges. By Friday, the Revolution will have practiced on it for six separate training sessions.

Froslid says he will judge Saturday’s U.S. debut of the Duraspine Pro just as he did Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal between Inter Milan and CSKA Moscow played on the FieldTurf of the Luzhniki Stadium in Russia: by the postgame.

“When you have those caliber games being played on your product and then there’s not one mention after the game about the surface, that’s the best compliment we can get,” he said.