Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Arizona Diamondbacks has announced its Chase Field ballpark will switch from natural to synthetic grass in a bid to address the challenges posed by the climate in Phoenix.

The Diamondbacks have struck a partnership with Shaw Sports Turf that will lead to the installation of the company’s ‘Batting a Thousand’ Natural Turf (B1K), which is designed specifically for baseball and is expected to be ready for opening day of the 2019 season.

“Our baseball operations staff has completed extensive research, including site visits and player testing and we are all in agreement that this is the best decision for our franchise,” said Diamondbacks president and chief executive, Derrick Hall. “Research has shown the performance and health benefits associated with playing on this surface that did not previously exist, which factored heavily into our decision. Additionally, our ability to keep the roof closed during the summer months will allow Chase Field to remain at a perfect temperature for our fans, which has become increasingly difficult over the last several years.

“The challenges with growing natural grass in our climate and stadium have been well documented and we have considered alternate solutions for many years. We decided to make this change because the technology developed by Shaw is the best in existence and will provide a consistent playing surface and benefits to our players on the field while enhancing our fan experience throughout the ballpark.”

The new playing surface at Chase Field will appear nearly identical to that which has been in place since the stadium opened in 1998, including the dirt path between the mound and home plate. The Diamondbacks’ commitment to sustainability also played a role in the change. In addition to conserving cooling energy by keeping the roof closed during the daytime, the transition to a synthetic playing surface is expected to provide 90% savings – nearly two million gallons – in water consumption each season by requiring less water to maintain the system.

With improved technology over the last several years, synthetic grass surfaces have become commonplace throughout US collegiate and professional sports, with 14 of the 32 NFL American football teams using synthetic grass, including the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, as well as numerous college football and baseball teams. Notable collegiate programs include Louisiana State University, Brigham Young University, Vanderbilt University, University of Missouri, Virginia Tech and Colorado State University.

Various fields at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Diamondbacks’ practice facility, will also be outfitted with the Shaw Sports Turf synthetic grass this offseason in order to allow players at all levels of the organisation to utilise the new playing surface.

“The Arizona Diamondbacks are known as an innovative franchise in their approach to so many areas of their business and we’re very excited for the opportunity to work with them on this project,” said vice-president of Shaw Turf, Chuck McClurg.

“Throughout our discussion, they have prioritised player safety as their top goal and we are confident that the product we deliver will be an exceptionally consistent, top-of-the-line playing surface that will mimic the best natural playing surfaces in Major League Baseball today.”

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