AstroTurf – A Significant 1960's Invention

by Guy Belleranti

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AstroTurf is a term that is often used for the artificial turf/grass used in arenas, stadiums and the like for sporting events. However, the term is actually a registered trademark, and the product is now also used in residential and other commercial applications.

The history of this artificial turf goes back to the late 1950's.

In the mid 1950's an organization called the Ford Foundation saw a need to improve the physical fitness of young people in urban areas. As a Monsanto Industries subsidiary called the Chemstrand Company began developing new synthetic fibers for carpeting, the Ford Foundation encouraged Chemstrand to work toward the creation of a form of playing surface for young people in urban schools.

James M. Faria and Robert T Wright of Monsanto came up with the final result and applied for a patent in December of 1965. One and a half years later, in July of 1967, the patent was issued.

However, even before the patent was issued this ChemGrass, as it was called, was being put into major use, with Houston's new indoor Astrodome being the focus.

The Astrodome had been completed in 1964, and in the spring of 1965 the Houston Colt .45s baseball team (who entered the National League as a new team on 1962) became its first major user.

The Colt .45s changed their name to the Houston Astros, and played on natural grass the first season in the Astrodome. However, because the roof was transparent, glare from sun brought complaints from both fans and players. The roof was painted black to end the glare problem, but this killed off the grass. So in 1966 ChemGrass, now renamed AstroTurf, was used as the new playing surface.

That fall, the Houston Oilers football team also played on the surface in the Astrodome. Soon after, the synthetic surface was being used in other arenas and stadiums, both indoor and out.

Today, many sports teams play upon the surface, and it is used in other applications as well. Indeed, AstroTurf was one of the big inventions of the 1960's.

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