KNOXVILLE (WVLT / UTK) -- The University of Tennessee is leading the way on a research project designed to enhance playing surfaces while improving player performance and safety.
The UT Center for Athletic Field Research opened Wednesday. Its objective is to study both synthetic and natural turf surfaces and their viability for athletic competition.
Several dignitaries attended the dedication ceremony Wednesday, including Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley, UT President Joe DiPietro Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. A trio of executives with the NFL Players' Association also came to the event.
"I think it's a real tribute to what our university's all about," Dooley said. "It's finding solutions, taking your intellectual capacity, using the university to find solutions for America, and that's what they're doing."
Clark Gaines, a former NFL running back and current associate executive director for the NFLPA, agreed.
"The NFL Players' Association has been devoted to the safety, health and welfare of the players," Gaines said. "This is the type of venture we hoped would come along and generate some interest."
The geographic location of the site will enable UT scientists to conduct research on a variety of surfaces used in both cool- and warm-season climates.
The unique outdoor research facility comprises 60 small-scale athletic research fields constructed from a variety of playing surfaces.
The fields represent those used for professional-level sports to surfaces used by schools, public parks and recreation fields.
While determining the safety and performance of AstroTurf products compared to various natural turfgrass systems, UT scientists will also monitor these relationships over time.
Additionally, they will evaluate the environmental impacts of each system.
The research should lead to the development of new, more accurate methods for testing the safety and performance of all turfgrass playing surfaces.