Panthers replacing grass with artificial turf

After 26 years of playing at home on grass, the Carolina Panthers are switching to artificial turf.

The Panthers announced Wednesday that they were pulling up the Bermuda grass at Bank of America Stadium and switching to FieldTurf, an artificial turf used in five other NFL stadiums. The reason? The stadium has a new full-time tenant.

Panthers quote Charlotte’s new MLS team

MLS awarded Charlotte her 30th franchise in 2019. Charlotte Football Club, owned by Panthers owner David Tepper, will begin the game in 2022. The Panthers don’t believe the natural turf can stand the added wear and tear of two teams’ home games worth.

“In order to keep grass, they would have to graze again and again,” said the Panthers’ announcement.

Heavy traffic on the Panther home field

MLS teams play 17 regular season home games plus preseason games, in addition to the 10+ NFL home games (eight regular season, two preseason) played in NFL stadiums. Bank of America Stadium hosts concerts and other events, as well as occasional college games, including the ACC Championship and Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Bank of America Stadium has used natural grass since its debut in 1996. (Photo by Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Does artificial field increase the risk of injury?

The move is likely to cause tantrums in football and soccer circles. Natural grass is generally considered better for athletes’ bodies and is preferred by the NFLPA. While artificial turf has come a long way since the beginning of Astroturf, which has been blamed for the end of its career, for the most part players would still prefer to play on a more forgiving natural surface.

Cleveland Browns security guard and NFLPA President JC Tretter wrote an essay in 2020 calling on all NFL stadiums to use natural grass on their fields.

“Professional soccer players exert a lot of force and rotation on the playing surface,” Tretter wrote. “Grass will eventually give way, often releasing the cleat before a damaging load is reached. There is less sag on synthetic surfaces, which means our feet, ankles and knees absorb the force, making injuries more likely.”

The story goes on

Football players have long made fun of artificial turf

Artificial turf is also often condemned in football circles. The USWNT included playing surfaces as part of their equal pay push, arguing that they should have equal access to natural grass fields as men, rather than playing a significant portion of their games on artificial turf, increasing the risk of injury.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced that he would not play regular season games on artificial turf when he moved from the Premier League to LA Galaxy in 2018. Artificial turf is not used on any field in the Premier League.

The Panthers acknowledged these concerns in their announcement and even followed up on Tretter’s essay in which he spoke out in favor of natural grass. The team said they had consulted the Panthers and Charlotte FC players before making the decision.

Mark Hart, Vice President of Tepper Sports & Entertainment, pledged to keep the field quality up.

“We have expressed our commitment to the players to keep this field at a level that corresponds to the highest standards,” said Hart, according to the statement.

The Panthers plan to start work on the new turf in the coming days to prepare it for the upcoming NFL season. Charlotte FC will make its debut next spring.

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