From the day that CenturyLink Field opened as Seahawks Stadium in 2002, it has been a first-class stadium by all accounts.
On Monday, the Sounders FC got their first look at the latest upgrades to their home stadium – the new FieldTurf surface that was installed over the last few weeks.
“From a soccer side, it was important to upgrade the turf and make it the best playable field possible,” said senior vice president of business operations Gary Wright.
The latest installation is the most up-to-date technology in artificial surfaces and is the result of innovative science, engineering and technology that will provide a playing surface that features a soft and strong monofilament fiber.
The field looks more appealing to the eye than the previous generation, and also fits the Sounders FC style of play better.
“Having a new turf field is a big plus for us. It’s going to play much truer to grass. It slows the ball down at times, which is good for a team like us that likes to keep possession,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “There’s more bounce to it and more give, so it plays a lot better than it did last year.”
While there is a notion that the playing surface has hindered the Sounders from signing players or attracting games to CenturyLink Field in the past, Wright said the FieldTurf has not been a deterrent for the club at this point and has, in fact, been given rave reviews by the clubs that have come to Seattle.
“I’ve had conversations with major managers who have been here before who have said that if it had gotten to their desk, they would have played on FieldTurf,” Wright said. “They are so used to playing on grass, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out this year. This is the latest and the greatest and the reports in their testing have been great.”
In addition to the ease of maintenance, FieldTurf is also proven safer than natural grass.
In studies involving NCAA soccer, teams using FieldTurf had no incidents of concussions sustained as a result of player-to-surface contact, while 13 percent of the concussions in men on grass surfaces were as a result of player-to-surface contact. Traction ratings are also rated better on FieldTurf than natural grass.
“It’s definitely easier on the body than it would be otherwise,” Schmid said. “Just being able to cut on this surface, with it being softer like that, takes a lot of the wear and tear off.”
The Sounders will play their first competitive match on the new surface March 7 against Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.