Sports Surfaces Get the Blues

What began as a unique marketing strategy has evolved into a full-on fad: colored turf. It started with the original “Smurf Turf,” blue synthetic turf installed at Boise State’s Bronco Stadium in 1986; the first non-green playing surface in football history. What began as a gimmick evolved into branding brilliance, and the unique surface is now an iconic symbol of the school … and the state. Not surprisingly, other facilities followed suit and boarded the rainbow turf bandwagon. The University of New Haven, Barrow High in Alaska and Bill Pate Stadium (home of the Hidalgo High School Pirates) in Hidalgo, Texas, all play on blue fields. West Hills High in Santee, Calif., has two-tone blue turf. In 2010, Eastern Washington University broke the blue mold, opting instead for red turf known as The Inferno. (Interesting to note that the same year the red turf was installed, Eastern Washington football won its first national championship. Just sayin’.) One new design received a lot of attention earlier this year – Lindenwood University in Belleville, Ill., installed a turf surface that featured alternating gray and maroon stripes. (This is Lindenwood’s inaugural football season, so we’ll have to wait to see if they have the same result as Eastern Washington.)

The colored turf trend has also made its way across the pond, making its Olympic debut in London. The 2012 games (in progress as I write this) featured a blue turf field hockey field with a hot pink border; the usual white ball was swapped out for a neon yellow version. Officials made the decision to use a blue surface in the hope that it would make the game easier for spectators to watch, while also incorporating the color scheme of the games.

While athletes and spectators seem to find most unorthodox turf colors acceptable, clay is apparently a different story. Blue clay tennis courts debuted at last spring’s Madrid Open to the criticism of pretty much all of the athletes. Following losses, superstars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal vowed to not return in 2013 if the same surface was used. Lucky for them, the Association of Tennis Professionals has decided blue clay courts will not be allowed at tour events next season.

I want to know where you stand on unique turf surfaces, drop me a line with your thoughts.

Katie Meyers