RCA Dome to upgrade playing field for Colts
Capital Improvement Board approves funds to install state-of-the-art artificial turf.
By Mike Chappell
February 15, 2005
The worst playing surface in the NFL will give way to a state-of-the-art synthetic surface when the Indianapolis Colts return to the RCA Dome for the 2005 season.
The Capital Improvement Board, which runs the RCA Dome, on Monday unanimously approved funding for a new surface to replace the existing AstroTurf.
The CIB is allowing executive director Barney Levengood to spend up to $800,000 on a new surface, and an additional $900,000 for a hard cover to protect the turf when the facility hosts nonfootball events.
"What we're talking about is a new, synthetic field for the RCA Dome," Levengood said. "We're not suggesting it'll be any particular product."
Any product will be an improvement over the AstroTurf, according to a survey of 1,514 players conducted by the NFL Players Association. The RCA Dome surface was voted the worst in the league, followed by the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, home of the Rams. Those facilities were the only ones with AstroTurf fields during the 2004 season.
The top four venues featured natural grass: Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium, Arizona's Sun Devil Stadium, Carolina's Bank of America Stadium and Houston's Reliant Stadium.
The fifth-best venue, Seattle's Qwest Field, has FieldTurf. That's the same playing surface the Colts installed in their indoor facility at the Union Federal Football Center. When the team practices outdoors, it does so on natural grass.
Other possibilities for the RCA Dome include Sportexe Momentum, which is used in Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium and the Superdome in New Orleans, and AstroPlay, which is used in Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The AstroTurf in the RCA Dome is eight years old and replacing it was inevitable.
"It was a mutual agreement that the days of the (AstroTurf) that has been in the dome are numbered," said Pete Ward, the Colts' senior executive vice president.
The Colts and CIB, he added, "agreed that some form of the new technology was the best way to go."
The CIB expects to have the new surface installed by May and ready for use when the Colts open their preseason in August.
Levengood said the "useful life" of the new synthetic surfaces is four to five years. He wouldn't speculate on whether the new surface will be transferable to a proposed new stadium for the Colts. Ideally, the new venue will be ready for the start of the 2008 season.