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An Open Letter to the Bears and Chicago Parks: FieldTurf in 2010

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Soldier-field--chicago-bears_medium Dear Chicago Bears/Wonderful City of Chicago,

For many years now, we've watched the Chicago Bears play at the magnificent stadium known as Soldier Field. A testament to old-school football, it's served as a pilgrimage to many fans. It epitomizes everything about what is loved about the historic NFL franchises: classic styling(with a modern touch), and a throwback to the fields of old. The weathered grass of Soldier Field, cold and brown and dying by October, often serves as an analogy to the happenings on the field. Mr. Dan Pompei of the tribune writes that you're maybe leaning towards considering a new surface.

It's something that needs to change. As soon as possible. Let's look at some reasons why below....

The ever changing NFL landscape

There are currently 11 NFL Stadiums that are using the FieldTurf system. Those are as follows:

Paul Brown Stadium -- Cincinnati Bengals
Edward Jones Dome-- St. Louis Rams
Ford Field-- Detroit Lions
Georgia Dome-- Atlanta Falcons
Giants Stadium-- New York Giants/New York Jets
Gillette Stadium-- New England Patriots
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome-- Minnesota Vikings
Louisiana Superdome-- New Orleans Saints
Lucas Oil Stadium-- Indianapolis Colts
Qwest Field-- Seattle Seahawks
Rogers Centre-- Toronto (for the Bills Games in Toronto)

(note: this list doesn't include all of the teams that practice on FieldTurf. That's about 15, if you're counting)

Now let's analyze this list a bit. For starters, you're looking at several of the consistently tops teams in the NFL (Giants, Patriots, Colts) are using the surface. It's a fast playing surface, designed for high power, quick teams. You know, like the team you're consistently trying to build with undersized, quick defensive players, and speedy, undersized wide receivers.

Secondly, there are not one, but
two
 teams in your division who have made the switch. One of those teams has put together quite the package that fits really well into the stadium conditions, with big quick guys who can make plays. The other team is the Lions. If it's good for your most direct competitors, surely it wouldn't hurt to give it a try for the Bears.

Just today we watched a running back slip, at his own goalline, while trying to plant and run for a running play. Why is this? Because the newly laid sod had no chance to take hold, and came up in a big chunk off of his shoe. Little plays like this could easily be the difference between a positive play, or a terribly negative one. I'd hate to think what the reaction ofthe fans would have been if that slip had caused a safety, or even worse, a fumble and touchdown for the woeful St. Louis Rams. Slipping and unsure footing issues like this lead us to....

Player Safety

Inherently, injury rates between natural grass and field turf are about the same. However, the types of injuries are radically different. The American Journal of Sports Medicine did a study showing that while injury rates were generally the same, the most common types of field turf injuries were skin injuries and muscles strains. Playing on grass causes players to be more susceptible to things like concussions, and ligament tears. These kinds of injuries are much more serious, and a stronger cause for concern, as they can directly affect player productivity and future health. (Source)

Players love it, too.They say that it tends to feel softer, providing cushion for falls, and has stronger footing, but without gripping the foot. This helps ease the stress on the knees of those making quick cuts or big time plays. Don't just believe me though. USA Today was kind enough to do a story on the subject.

 I'd also like to address something that I know is near and dear to both the team and the city's heart....

Cost

I realize that this isn't a cheap endeavor. Estimates that I've seen suggest that you're looking at a million, million and a half dollars to redo Soldier Field in FieldTurf. That's a lot, I know, I mean, we do have to give that to players who aren't playing. 

Still, the field has had to be resodded twice, just in the 2009 season. The first time, after U2 was in the stadium tearing the field up RIGHT BEFORE THE SEASON OPENER, and again over these past two weeks, as the old, hard ground just wasn't growing grass anymore.  This has cost roughly $500,000. Had the investment been made before the season started, you'd be over 30% of the way towards paying for it, instead of the sunk expensive cost of replacing and recycling sod all the time.

And finally....

Potential

If 33 of 49 Bears (source) think the field is absolutely terrible, what about players from other teams? As the team will need to heavily build through free agency for the next couple of years, why would other players want to come to an injury-inducing, uncomfortable field?  Luring players to your team isn't just about throwing money at them, or convincing them that they'll be your pretty little princess--you have to show them they'll have the tools to succeed. While there are some chasing the the all powerful coin, there are plenty who believe in playing for tradition, respect, and the ring. Show them a reason to think that will happen in Chicago>

An investment in FieldTurf is an investment in the vitality and future of the Chicago Bears, and the City of Chicago. Please make this a top-10 priority for the organization.

Sincerely,

Kev H