Soccer beginning to embrace synthetic turf

November 10, 2009  - By

Dr. Jim Beard at Hope College’s new Van Andel Stadium (image courtesy of MiSTMA)

HOLLAND, MI — The setting seemed incongruous. Here was Dr. James “Jim” Beard, who has spent more than a half century researching turfgrass and educating the world
Dr. Jim Beard at Hope College’s new Van Andel Stadium (image courtesy of MiSTMA)

about its care, speaking to a group of about 90 sports turf and grounds pros in front of one of the most attractive soccer fields you will find anywhere . . . and it’s playing surface is artificial turf.

The scene was the new Van Andel Soccer Stadium on the campus of Hope College, a picturesque four-year liberal arts college located in Michigan’s far southwest corner. The Michigan Sports Turf Managers Association’s (MiSTMA) fall field day unfolded there just days after the dedication of the new stadium.

Soccer coach Steve Smith, left, and GBK construction manager Jody Myaard on the recently installed synthetic soccer pitch

And nobody that particular day could have been happier than Steve Smith, men’s soccer coach at the 3,200-student college.

Soccer fields get pounded in Michigan in the spring and fall, and especially in western Michigan with Lake Michigan at its back. Indeed, just weeks after the field’s dedication it

Soccer coach Steve Smith, left, and GBK construction manager Jody Myaard on the recently installed synthetic soccer pitch

successfully hosted high school playoff games. The new field will also be used by as many as 1200 students during four weeks of soccer camps each year.

Smith says the synthetic surface is literally the answer to his prayers.

Hope College’s new Van Andel Soccer Stadium was dedicated Oct. 17.

“This new field holds the ball very well because the fibers don’t lay down,” he said walking over the fake grass. “You want to slow the ball just like you do on grass. That was the problem with the older synthetic turf fields. They played too fast. There is a lot of technology in this field.”

Jody Myaard, project superintendent for GBK Construction, the local company that installed the field, pointed out some of the other newer features of the field, that because of the slightly different colors of the poly fibers, looked surprisingly like real grass.

Soccer is the last of the major outdoor sports to wholly embrace synthetic turf, but that’s rapidly changing.

The stadium’s modern locker rooms. (Image courtesy of MiSTMA)

Hope College’s new Van Andel Soccer Stadium was dedicated Oct. 17.

Several years ago FIFA, the governing body of soccer worldwide, softened its stance on synthetic turf playing surfaces. And even though many soccer players, including some of the world’s most accomplished players, still prefer grass fields, synthetic is catching on with soccer as evidenced by the recent decision to hold the Nov. 22 MLS Cup on Seattle’s Quest Field with its FieldTurf surface.

Could the new Van Andel Soccer Stadium be a model for future soccer facilities? Probably not on this scale, thanks to a $3 million gift from the David & Carol Van Andel Foundation. (David Van Andel is the third of Amway co-founder Jay Van Andel’s four children.)

The stadium is one of the nation’s largest single-purpose stadiums in its division and is expected to attract major sporting effects to the area, including MIAA tournament play, NCAA and MHSAA post-season play, age group soccer play, soccer camp tournaments and lacrosse contests.

The stadium’s modern locker rooms. (Image courtesy of MiSTMA)

That $5.3 million stadium includes both stadium-style and bleacher seating for 1,400 fans, a concession stand, public rest rooms, two locker rooms, a training room, a meeting room for visiting teams along with a ticket booth and press box. It also features terrace areas for picnics and tailgating as well as slighting for night games.

AT Staff

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