FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There was a noticeable sense of excitement and anticipation in the faces of the Revolution players when they took to the Gillette Stadium field for training on Tuesday morning.
Just four days shy of their 2010 season opener – set for Saturday night against the LA Galaxy – the Revs were finally able to train outdoors in Foxborough for the first time this preseason. Despite rainy conditions, it was a welcomed change after spending the better part of two months training inside the Dana-Farber Field House and traveling to warmer locations like Florida and North Carolina for suitable weather.
But there was something else which had the players talking on Tuesday morning – something which had nothing to do with the fresh air or the impending 2010 season.
They were talking about the brand new surface.
Installed during the course of the past few weeks, Gillette Stadium now features FieldTurf’s Duraspine PRO system, which has been declared the new standard in artificial turf. The surface is more resistant to matting and delivers an increasingly natural look and feel, with the comfort of the athletes a top priority.
Designed with international soccer in mind, the field is expected to exceed the requirements of FIFA’s 2-star rating system.
“When we heard that FieldTurf was finalizing the development of Duraspine PRO, we wanted to be one of the first to have it,” Jonathan Kraft, President of The Kraft Group, said. “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.”
Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 with a natural grass surface, but it was difficult to maintain in the harsh weather typical of the northeast. The original FieldTurf surface was laid down in November 2006 – midway through the New England Patriots season – and the Revs began play on the artificial turf at the beginning of the 2007 schedule. The Revolution played three full seasons on the original surface.
[inline_node:23623]It was announced in late February that Gillette Stadium would be resurfaced with the state-of-the-art FieldTurf Duraspine PRO, and installation began immediately.
The first official sporting event to be held on the new surface will be the New England Lacrosse Classic on April 3, while the Revs will play the first professional match on the field the following weekend when they host Toronto FC on April 10.
However, Revolution players and coaches got a sneak peek at the new field today when their training session became the first sports activity conducted since the installation was completed.
Second-year defender Kevin Alston – who became accustomed to playing on Gillette Stadium’s artificial surface during his rookie year in 2009 – said that the new field plays much more like grass than the previous turf.
“The ball doesn’t roll as fast,” he said. “The last turf was kind of like a carpet and the ball was just flying. This turf holds the ball a little bit better.”
Goalkeeper Preston Burpo – who is one of the Revolution’s newest members and only played on the previous turf as an opponent – agreed with Alston’s assessment that the new surface plays more like a natural field, even when slick, as it was in today’s rain.
“The ball was moving pretty quick,” he said. “Obviously, it was raining, but it seems like it’s got a pretty true bounce.”
Perhaps more importantly, the FieldTurf Duraspine PRO was designed to have more support to lessen the pressure on athletes’ joints and muscles. That particular feature is critical for teams which play at least half of their games on an artificial surface, as it reduces the cumulative effects of the athletes running on the turf on a weekly basis.
Described as the softest, most durable turf system ever introduced, first impressions of the new surface and its cushiony support were nothing but positive.
“There seems to be quite a bit of cushion down there,” said Burpo, who has a slightly different perspective as a goalkeeper. “It felt pretty good diving around.”
Alston also mentioned the softness of the new surface, which has a bit more life to it not only because of the technology, but also because of how recently it was laid down.
“There’s a lot more cushion,” said Alston. “It’s not flat – the grass is kind of sticking up.”
Early signs indicate that FieldTurf’s new Duraspine PRO system just may bring us one step closer to imitating a natural surface through artificial means.
In the end, the only thing that truly matters is the opinion of the players who play on the surface week in and week out.
For those who spoke about the new field today, the reaction was one-hundred-percent positive.
“I like it a lot,” said Alston, unable to hide his enthusiasm. “It’s a lot better.”