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The Ravens recently upgraded the giant video boards at M&T Bank Stadum to high definition, which will guarantee a crystal-clear viewing experience for each fan in attendance.
Now, with a new “Momentum 51″ field, manufactured by Shaw Sportexe, installed this week, consider the turf HD, as well.
At an investment of nearly $1,000,000, it marks the first time the Ravens have replaced their playing surface since 2003, when it was switched from grass to artificial.
“I’ve been on a lot of other fields out there, from the Pro Bowl to other stadiums, and in my experience, this is the best field out there,” said Ravens Director of Fields and Grounds Don Follett. “This has more resilience and feels better under your feet.
“There was the original Astroturf, but you might as well have been playing out in the parking lot. This material really feels like natural grass. It’s safer, and that’s why we pulled the trigger.”
Feel was one part of the equation.
Another, and perhaps just as important, is that M&T Bank Stadium now has the ability to tailor the field towards various events because the Ravens’ logos are not stitched into the middle and end zones. Follett and his grounds crew will be able to paint logos for NCAA lacrosse, soccer and college and high school football games.
“It holds up with 300-pound offensive linemen digging in and with fast-moving games like lacrosse and soccer,” said Ravens Vice President of Stadium Operations Roy Sommerhof. “Competing in bad weather does not slow the athletes and does not damage the field.
“Those events may not be able to be played here if we didn’t have a surface like this.”
The culmination of a two-week process, the Ravens’ grounds crew rolled up the former Sportexe turf and transported it for recycling.
The new system – Shaw’s fourth generation – was then laid, with workers sewing in the yard lines and hash marks. It sits atop a bed of gravel for easy drainage and will be filled with a 50-50 mix of sand and rubber.
All told, the “Momentum 51″ surface is 2.5 inches deep, has one billion green “grass blades,” and covers 108,000 square feet.
Follett said he will leave the final evaluation up to kicker Billy Cundiff and punter Sam Koch.
“Those guys are the ones that really feel it under their feet, so they are my benchmark as to how it’s performing,” Follett said with a laugh. “There may be some other players that come down before minicamp, but it’s not scheduled.”