Titans to tackle injury record with switch to artificial turf

Featured image credit: Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans have detailed plans to switch the Nissan Stadium playing surface from natural grass to artificial turf for the first time in the venue’s history, with the franchise stating first-of-its-kind technology for the NFL will be utilised in an effort to overcome high player injury rates.

The Titans have competed on natural grass since Nissan Stadium opened in 1999 and the team said it has assessed a number of solutions to improve the natural playing surface since its early years at the facility.

With Nashville located in a transition climate zone, the Titans believe this makes growing a consistent grass surface throughout the entire NFL season “nearly impossible”. In more recent years, the franchise has ramped up its research into the matter due to what it says were player/coach concerns, an increase in injuries, and persistent issues with an undependable surface.

The Titans said three core factors were behind yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) announcement that Nissan Stadium would switch from grass to monofilament turf in time for the 2023 season. The climate zone is the first of these, with player injuries the second key factor.

During the seasons spanning 2018 to 2021, the Titans said Nissan Stadium consistently had amongst the highest lower body injuries of any venue across the league. Indeed, the Titans have topped the NFL rankings in each of the past two seasons in terms of most players used. This includes setting a league record 91 players in 2021, the most in a non-strike season, due to injuries.

The Titans said improved technology has also been a key consideration. The grass will be replaced by monofilament, Matrix Helix Turf with organic infill, with the goal of providing a consistent playing experience year-round. Nissan Stadium will become the first NFL venue with the technology of a synthetic turf system that incorporates organic infill.

“Ultimately we’ve landed on the decision, based on that data, to transition to a monofilament surface with an organic infill that mimics the natural feel of grass while getting the consistency and durability of field turf,” Titans president and CEO, Burke Nihill, told the team’s official website.

The new playing field at Nissan Stadium will be similar to that which is currently used inside the team’s indoor practice facility at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park, along with other practice facilities across the NFL.

Preparation work on the new Nissan Stadium field is already underway, with the project to be completed in time for the 2023 NFL season. Nihill added: “I think our grounds crew is among the best in the National Football League. Ultimately there’s just a limit to how much can be done for a natural grass surface in this part of the country.

“This turf is cutting-edge technology and will be a huge improvement in terms of consistency and performance.”

The work at Nissan Stadium comes as the Titans continue to plan for a new home. Mayor John Cooper in December hailed a Council vote on the proposed new stadium as “an enormous step toward a better future” for Nashville.

The Nashville Metro Council voted 27-8 in favour of approving preliminary terms on the stadium deal, while a 27-5 vote backed the introduction of a 1% hotel tax increase to help finance the project, should it go ahead.

The Titans agreed terms with Nashville and Davidson County Mayor Cooper for a new enclosed stadium back in October. The Titans’ plans cleared another hurdle earlier in December after the Metro Nashville Sports Authority approved the project. The Sports Authority manages Nissan Stadium.

Meanwhile, NFL owners approved a combination of loans and grants worth $200m (£162.3m/€183.8m) for the proposed new stadium. The investment represents 10% of the projected cost for the 60,000-seat venue, which will be enclosed.

The $2.1bn project would include the largest public spending contribution on an NFL stadium to date. While around $840m will be privately funded, through the likes of the team and the $200m NFL contribution, the Metro Sports Authority will contribute $760m through revenue bonds to be paid using methods such as the hotel tax. The state will also contribute $500m in bonds.