Diamondbacks switch to fake turf so they can crank their a/c, Rangers may follow suit

Also on Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks owners, who have been shopping around to get a new stadium to replace 20-year-old Chase Field since negotiating an out clause to their lease back in May, have announced that they’ll be switching their current stadium to artificial turf next year, as they apparently just discovered after two decades that grass needs sunlight and water:

The decision to swap live grass to turf, of course, came after failed attempts at finding grass that grew well in the desert. The team would keep the Chase Field roof open during the day, allowing the sun in, but even closing it in the late afternoon before night first pitches made for a hot game-viewing experience with the air conditioning cranked up.

Arizona tried a new strain of grass this past season, and while it looked better than in years’ past — when the outfield would develop brown, dry spots where outfielders stood — it still played hard.

“It looked good and when you talk players, when you talk to our facility staff, it still didn’t play well and still wasn’t very healthy out there,” [Diamondbacks CEO Derrick] Hall said…

The move to synthetic turf will save the team money on its water bill and electric bill.

The team expects a 90 percent savings, or two million gallons, in water consumption.

The irony here, of course, is that the Diamondbacks demanded a pricey retractable roof when it got its stadium built back in the ’90s in large part so it could open it to the elements to allow natural grass to grow. (The Houston Astrodome famously had to turn to newly invented artificial turf — dubbed Astroturf as a result — after its initial plan to grow grass under a roof with glass windows turned out to be a disaster.) Of course, they didn’t know then how much fans would demand that the roof be closed as much as possible to let the air-conditioning kick in, or for that matter how crazy hot it would get in Phoenix now that we’ve broken the earth’s climate. But still, irony.

Notably, the Texas Rangers owners still haven’t announced whether their new retractable-roofed stadium will feature grass or artificial turf, and team officials there may keep a close eye on how the D-Backs’ new turf plays next spring before making a decision. Given that the whole point of the Rangers’ new stadium is to have air-conditioning, though, and that Texas occupies the same Anthropocene climate as Arizona, you have to think they’ll be leaning hard toward plastic grass. Which makes you wonder why anybody bothers with moving roofs anymore anyway — they’re crazy expensive and hardly ever opened to the elements in warm-weather cities — but I guess it’s hard for even sports team owners to pass up stuff that looks so cool from passing airplanes.



20 comments on “Diamondbacks switch to fake turf so they can crank their a/c, Rangers may follow suit

  1. Not a fan of artificial turf, but it certainly sends the right message. Trying to grow grass in the desert is stupid. Waste of valuable water.

    • True, but playing professional sports, building golf courses and/or siting large cities in the desert is also really stupid for the same reasons.

  2. I like that they’re saving 2 million gallons of water that’s a big deal in the south west.

    • That’s almost enough ‘spare’ water to add another nine holes to one of the existing golf courses…

      Aren’t suburban Phx residents still watering their lawns 3x/day to keep them green?

  3. The Cardinals don’t seem to have any insurmountable issues maintaining real grass in Glendale.

    In any case, I don’t consider myself a baseball purist. I favor the DH, defensive shifts are fine (learn how to hit opposite field if you don’t like it), highly specialized pitching is fine, etc. But goddammit, baseball should be played on real grass.

  4. Yeah that whole sector of the country still needs pretty drastic water use reductions. They have been in deficit for a long time. Of course the solution is right there, water is very under-priced in the west, just charge more and demand will go down…but politically that seems to be a non starter.

    In the long run climate change might help with that problem at least as the earth generally is going to get much wetter. Though what the changes entail for individual locales is hard to say.

    • It’s pretty clear that the American Southwest is going to get much hotter and drier:


      I’d have to put Phoenix up there with Miami in terms of most likely to be the first major U.S. city to become uninhabitable thanks to climate change.

      • It is likely not going to get drier, there is going to be less snowmelt. In some sense in the second half of the 20th century and recently places like the American Southwest and Peru have been beneficiary of climate change because of the increased melt each year. Slowly those ice reserves have been depleted by permanent reduction in ice mass.

        Evaporation will increase slightly, but rainfall will likely increase as much or more. You really have to pick through the literature on this stuff careful because a lot of it is written to only highlight the negative and avoid any mitigating impacts. Notice the link you posted says almost nothing about rain, other than mentioning snowfall at a particular time of year is down.

        Anyway, with less of a storage system in ice there will be more water going directly into the system, which in theory means more flooding, and lower water levels during dry periods. But these rivers are entirely dammed/managed anyway, so any change in the delivery of water does not actually matter much as far as availability for agriculture and human activity.

        Climate change is a dumb enough mistake on human’s part to not need to be aided by slanted portrayals of what the changes will actually entail and it is sadly absolutely the standard practice when discussing it from either side.

        • I mean, it depends on what you mean by “drier.” It may not rain less, but the important thing for Arizona is how much water you have available, which largely depends on the level of the Colorado River, which is definitely going to get drier overall:


          I agree with you that hyperbole doesn’t help here, but Phoenix being in existential danger from climate change isn’t any more guesswork than Miami being endangered by rising sea levels. Both are scientists’ best guesses about the future, but they’re pretty good guesses.

          • Yeah I just get sick of reading analysis after analysis that is like “there are going to be somewhat random changes over the climate of world with most of it getting warmer and wetter”.

            But somehow if you read an impact statement on a dry area they always mention the ways in which it is getting drier, and if you read an impact statement about a place it is cold it is somehow getting colder and so on. It becomes pretty clear after a few years of that that they are only picking out the impacts that are negative and not picking out any that are positive/mitigatory.

            And frankly regardless, the problem in the Southwest is there totally without climate change. Too many people and in particular too many farms using too much water in the middle of a hot hot desert. And to the extent it is going to get hotter it is only going to get dumber.

            Which is why they should have started price rationing and building up reserves yesterday. Instead they have been drawing down reserves for a decade.

            Yet another victory for representative politics.

          • Northern Ontario is likely going to be a much nicer place to live in Hothouse Earth. Unless the Canadian government has collapsed by then under the economic pressures of the Global Water Wars.

  5. Retractable roofs are a boondoggle. I have yet to figure out what the acceptable range of temperatures is to keep them open. It can be perfectly fine outside, yet deemed either “too hot” or “too cold” the have the roof open. Why bother unless it’s simply a strategy to add construction profits at taxpayer expense?

    • I am (patiently) waiting for the first team owner to demand that his host city build him an ‘outdoor’ stadium indoors. That is to say, on top of/around the open air stadium (which fans clearly prefer) there is to be built a gigantic dome with up to date depictions of the host city’s skyline and signature features displayed on the inside (or we could make the roughly circular walls of the giant dome the world’s biggest curved tv screen… at least until the next owner needs something even bigger).

      Of course, the exterior dome would require an artificial sun and current “outdoor” weather accurately projected onto it so the people sitting in air conditioned comfort inside a luxury suite inside the air conditioned open stadium underneath the dome will still feel like they are outside, which is where everyone obviously prefers to be.

      The taxpayer benefits of this should be obvious. The $3-4bn stadium will be both open air and available for use year round in any climate. So if Barrow, Alaska wants an expansion team in any summer sport, they can buy one. Simultaneously, if they have a need for a gathering place that will house 43,000 fans or participants, they already have one “for free”.

      If only we could find a way to make homeless people pay property taxes, this sort of luxury for well heeled fans (and billionaire team owners) really is not beyond our reach as a society.

      • Is there a way we can do that, but use even more water and money? Maybe an attached parcel of land for locally grown tropical plants to be used in the stadium’s restaurants?

      • I apologize. Clearly, Barrow cannot actually buy an expansion team. They can only pay the expansion fee on behalf of a billionaire who will then own the team and all operating rights to the stadium in exchange for some vague promise to not demand stadium upgrades for some vaguely determined period of time.

        However, the underlying principle remains the same…

        And, really, why should residents (or just visiting sports fans/franchise owners) be denied a live view of the Algarve, the Eiffel Tower or Victoria Falls from their tax deductible club seats simply because they aren’t anywhere near those attractions?

        Why do we discriminate against rich people so much?

  6. “The decision to swap live grass to turf, of course, came after failed attempts at finding grass that grew well in the desert.”

    In other news the Twins decided to change their landscaping after failed attempts to find palm trees that grew well in the snow.

  7. So…. does this mean that all those MLB threats about Tampa and Toronto being the last teams playing on an anachronism like artificial turf can now be rescinded?