Giants Stadium is going to have a permanent grass field starting in 2000.
The New York Giants and New York Jets decided Wednesday to switch from an artificial surface to an experimental tray grass system after receiving assurances from a grass consultant that the field would hold up with two teams playing on it.
"There are still financial and operational issues that need to be resolved, but everyone was in agreement that it was in all of our interests to put down the grass field permanently next season," John Mara, the Giants' executive vice president, said.
It will cost $4 million to $5 million to make the change, said a source close to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the 78,000-seat stadium that has had an artificial surface since opening in 1976.
About $2.5 million will be needed to buy enough trays to cover 2 1/2 fields. The rest of the money will be needed to install a heating and cooling system, storage and infrastructure costs and maintenance.
The tray system will be installed over the current AstroTurf 12 field, which will give the authority a backup in case the grass fails, Mara said.
The sports authority, the football teams and the New York-New Jersey MetroStars of Major League Soccer also have to agree on ground rules covering stadium use for soccer, concerts, Giants' practices and college football games.
However, the key issue has always been whether a grass field would hold up with two NFL teams using it in an area where snow, rain and cold can cause problems.
While the Jets, who moved here in 1984, and Giants have talked about playing on grass since 1994, they didn't do it until last year, when Clark Companies of Delhi, N.Y., installed an experimental tray system.
The first-year evaluation had mixed results, but everyone concerned felt that modifications to the tray system made by Scott Clark of Clark Companies held up very well this summer. During one 10-day span, three NFL games, the Kickoff Classic, a couple of college football practices and a soccer game were played, and the field held up well.
"We are relying on Clark's expectation he can produce and deliver," Jets president Steve Gutman said after attending the two-hour meeting at the sports authority headquarters. "This is the first time he has said he could produce and deliver a quality surface into the fall and winter months, which he did say at today's meeting. He feels he has developed a technology to do that."
Mara said Clark could not convince the Giants and Jets of that last year, but he seemed much more confident after some experiments at Michigan State last winter.
The grass field may be coming in a year too late for the Jets (0-3). Tabbed as serious Super owl contenders, they lost quarterback Vinny Testaverde (Achilles' tendon) for the season and receiver Wayne Chrebet (broken foot) for six weeks to injuries that some associated with an artificial field.
"To a man, all our players prefer to play on grass," Mara said. "We're trying to be responsive to their desires. From an aesthetic point of view and a traditional point of view, the game was meant to be played on grass."
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