The Atlanta Falcons have decided that their new stadium will have artificial turf, rather than natural grass, as its playing surface.
The Falcons originally hoped for a grass field in the planned retractable-roof stadium but decided against it after a detailed “sun study analysis,” the stadium’s lead architect said Monday.
“What we found was … it is impossible to have natural grass in the building because the building is so tall we don’t get enough light on the field to grow the grass,” said Bill Johnson, senior principal of Kansas City-based 360 Architecture.
Of the four NFL teams that currently have retractable-roof stadiums, two play on grass (Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals) and two on artificial turf (Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts).
In some cases, the retractable-roof structures put parts of the field in shadows. Also, teams with such roofs tend to keep them closed most of the time.
The Cardinals and Texans have gone to extraordinary lengths for natural grass. The Cardinals’ rollout grass field is placed inside the stadium for games and parked outside in sunlight on other days. The Texans’ field is assembled from eight-square-foot trays of grass and replaced periodically during the season with fresh trays grown nearby.
In addition to the sunlight issue, Falcons president Rich McKay said the plan to use the Atlanta stadium for many other events complicated the idea of natural grass.
“We did everything we could to solve for a grass field,” McKay said. “But this will be a true multi-purpose building, and it’s going to be used a lot. That change-over presents a lot of problems for grass.”
If Atlanta gets a Major League Soccer team for the stadium, it would play on artificial turf, McKay said. But a temporary grass field occasionally could be installed for events such as international soccer games that require it, McKay said.