An Artificial Anchor For Real Grass

ROSS C. LITTLE HAS TAKEN AN INTENSE INTEREST IN THE University of Utah's Running Utes football team this fall. Not in whether they win or lose, but in how the grass beneath their feet holds up. Utah's Rice Stadium is the most challenging and conspicuous venue yet for a new kind of turf made by Little's company, SportGrass Inc. of McLean, Va. SportGrass is real grass planted on a synthetic base. The base is a woven fabric with polypropylene blades sticking up, as in a sparse shag carpet. Sand is poured over this to the tops of the blades, and then natural grass is planted on top. The base protects and anchors the vulnerable "crowns" of the grass, where the blades meet the roots. The aim is to lessen the wear on natural grass, which players say produces fewer injuries than artificial turf.

The result? "So far, so good," Utah grounds department supervisor Susan Pope said after the Running Utes' first three home games. The natural grass was sheared off in some places, she says, but there weren't any divots or torn-up areas that are hard to restore. New grass quickly took hold, she says, thanks to the protection of the artificial base. Little hopes many more stadiums, golf courses, and other grassy spots will use SportGrass if it survives Utah's full season in good shape.

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