Turf’s Up

Sweeney Gets a New Surface

The home of the leopards got a massive upgrade this summer: a state of-the-art, million-pound system of artificial turf and soil. It’s a boon to current athletes, says Director of Athletics Angel Ayres, and a big help in convincing recruits that the synthetic grass might just be greener at Wentworth. “It’s a huge benefit for us if we can show them a brand-new field.” And the new surface puts Wentworth in good company: after artificial grass maker FieldTurf installed Sweeney Field, they headed to Gillette Stadium to redo the Patriot’s practice field with the same synthetics. Here’s a look at the engineering behind a playing field fit for pros and students alike. —KIMBERLY THORPE

turfsupGRASS The green blades are made of polyethylene—a plastic that’s stretched into thin films that are strong enough to withstand a beating from the eight varsity and club teams plus Colleges of the Fenway intramural programs that share the field. The fiber stays upright, like real grass, to counter a rolling soccer ball with natural resistance instead of artificial speed.

SOIL The space between the grass fibers is filled 1.75 inches deep with 800,000 pounds of industrial sand (silica) and bits of rubber—created by cryogenically freezing recycled tires to minus 350 degrees Fahrenheit and shattering them. The angular bits of silica and rubber fit together, lock into place, and give the field a consistent firmness that replicates real dirt.

ROCK Careful observers will notice that the center of the field is raised and the sides sloped. This is purely for aesthetics—a flat field would actually appear concave—and not to facilitate draining. The turf is designed to drain vertically: the water moves through the artificial soil, then through a permeable polypropylene fabric (the same used in carpet), finally filtering through a foot-deep stone drainage system beneath the field and out through pipes to the city’s storm drains.

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