Although FIFA has sanctioned the use of artificial surfaces in its competitions, and many top European club teams have a field with the artificial grass at their training centers, the notion of playing a tournament like the World Cup or Euro (never mind a World Cup qualifier) on the artificial stuff seems odd.
In the USA Gold Cup, three of the 13 stadiums that will be used for the regional championship tournament — Qwest Field in Seattle, Florida International University Stadium in Miami, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. —all have fields made of plastic grass.
It will be the first time in the history of the Gold Cup, which dates to 1991, that games will be played on artificial surfaces.
The fake grass remains the surface of choice in many places around the world because of its durability and perceived economy. It certainly has a place in many urban areas, like Manhattan, where fields receive an inordinate amount of play and where it’s either the plastic stuff or dirt and rocks.
Simulacrum of a park
Inside the 4,500 square foot space you will find grass, trees, birds twittering in the background and it is sunny and warm.
Whilst the UK panicked because of a few light snow flurries snowpocalypse — or was it the snowmageddon hit the USA.
But in a park in New York summer was just unfolding. Warm, happy people were peeling down to their T-shirts and soaking in the sunshine, while others were spreading picnic blankets and gazing up through the lush canopy of foliage. Some flopped down on the hearty carpet of green, curled up against one another and, lulled by the gentle chirping of birds, settled in for a nap.
It’s not truly a park, it is the simulacrum of a park, that beckons visitors with a vibrant gardenlike environment.
There is astroturfy grass on the floor along with wood chips and strewn faux fallen leaves and the bright, hot heat lamps in every nook and cranny make the place feel warm sunny.
The trees are plastic foliage stapled to wooden trunks. The sunlight emanates from light boxes designed to treat seasonal affective disorder. The birds chirp through a sound system.
The park is actually three different rooms, the first is the smallest with a bona fide wood picnic table in the corner nestled among the trees and bushes. Downstairs is a large room with skylights in its super high ceiling, another park bench, a lawn for sitting among the trees and a bright pink teeter totter. Off this room is the “back” room, which is the most crowded, but also the most interesting.
This room has realistic photo murals on the walls to give the illusion that you are in a forest, a pond (full of coins from wishers), giant rocks and huge black and silver fat boys cushions to lounge on. This room also has a small alcove with a wood chip floor and park bench seating.
It shouldn’t fool anyone. And yet it does: office workers looking for a break, couples looking for each other’s arms, the daily yoga class all just relaxing and playing and letting down their guard in a way they would never do if the fake foliage was not there. Some arrive when the park opens and stay all day.
Manchester Cathedral’s temporary church
The 22m (72ft) structure on Victoria Street will be used while the city’s cathedral has a new heating system installed.
It will be built in a space which will also include the city centre’s first children’s play area.
The space will also see trees and flowers planted and the installation of allotment boxes, where local residents and businesses can plant vegetables.
A spokeswoman for management company CityCo said new artificial grassed areas, seating and chalets will also be built in the area to “create a pleasant place for people to take time out from the bustle of the city”.
She said many of the materials used in the area were being “recycled from Chris Beardshaw’s Groundwork Garden at RHS Hampton Court show, as well as wooden decking and chalets from last summer’s Canal Festival and picnic benches donated by KRObar”.
The Victoria Street development is the sixth in the Manchester Garden City scheme, which is aimed at making the city greener.
Artificial Millennium Stadium pitch
The Welsh Rugby Union is thinking about replacing the pitch at the Millennium Stadium with an artificial surface. At present, the pitch is grown elsewhere before being moved into the stadium on special pallets.
The venue is set to host six games during the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the WRU believes a synthetic surface could be a practical alternative to grass.
Chief executive Roger Lewis said: “We’re giving serious consideration to all the options.”
Since the Cardiff stadium opened in 1999 there have been problems with the surface. The pitch, which had to be replaced in 2009 because of a fly infestation which causes damage to root growth, has received criticism from several quarters.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis says an artificial pitch could save millions of pounds
The International Rugby Board has already approved the use of artificial pitches consisting of a stone base layer, on top of which is a thick black rubber shock pad and a covering of green yearn 5cm deep with an in-fill of black rubber crumbs.
Saracen’s new £20million stadium Allianz Park will host the first professional rugby union match to be staged on a non-grass surface. The RFU invested in the new ground in Barnet to give England a place to train should their normal fields be frozen.
The length of the grass yarn has been set by the IRB, and also by FIFA for football purposes, at 50mm. 300 tons of sand is laid to stabilise the surface before 30mm of rubber crumb infill is added.
Installation costs are £530,000 including £100,000 for the first replacement of the grass yarn after 10 years.
An artificial surface is a lot cheaper to maintain than real grass as it just needs to be brushed twice a week to loosen the rubber crumb.